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Tan Twan Eng and Taiye Selasi Look Back on the Books They Read in 2012

Granta interviewed Tan Twan Eng, shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize for The Garden of Evening Mists and Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go, as well as several other writers, about what they read in 2012.

The Garden of Evening MistsThe Gift of RainJM CoetzeeThe Long Way HomeGhana Must GoOpen CityIn a Strange Room

Twan shares that he read JM Coetzee: A Life in Writing by JC Kannemeyer and Dana Snyman’s The Long Way Home: A Journey Through South Africa. He comments on Kannemeyer’s thorough excavation of Coetzee’s life and the subsequent examination of how much of his writing is autobiographical, saying that it “corrects the misconceptions that have obscured this enigmatic, private writer, misconceptions that have affected how his novels were analysed.” On The Long Way Home Twan said that “Snyman’s writing in this slim volume is straightforward and understated, it is unsentimental but moving.”

Another local book was mentioned by British author Andrew Miller, who read Damon Galgut’s In a Strange Room, saying that “There are definite echoes of Galgut’s great compatriot, JM Coetzee.”

Taiye Selasi called Teju Cole’s Open City the most beautiful novel that she read last year, as well as the most intelligent. She also enjoyed The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and The Round House by Louise Erdrich.

Tan Twan Eng

A Life in Writing, by J.C. Kannemeyer

This six-hundred-page long-awaited biography of J.M. Coetzee was published this year in Afrikaans and English. Kannemeyer is one of South Africa’s eminent biographers. Coetzee gave him extensive access to his papers, allowed Kannemeyer to conduct a series of interviews with him, occasionally pointing him to friends and former colleagues and relatives he should speak to.

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