Damon Galgut’s forthcoming novel, Arctic Summer, is much-anticipated, judging from the number of “books to look forward to in 2014″ lists he is mentioned on.
The BBC, The Guardian, The Irish Times and Irish network IRE Ten all mention Galgut’s latest among the best books that will be published this year. The Australian also has its eye on Arctic Summer and so does US publication The Atlantic. Some of the publications and networks strongly hint at Arctic Summer’s Man Booker Prize potential. Galgut’s novel, on EM Forster’s first trip to India in 1912, is set to be published in March this year and will be released locally by Umuzi.
The literary landscape will look a little different in 2014.
A new international book prize, The Folio, arrives in March. Then the Man Booker throws open its doors to any author writing in the English language – meaning US writers will be eligible for the first time.
There often seems to be something unshakable about the gestation cycles of great novelists. Over a career, favourite writers settle on a publishing rhythm that both suggests an unwillingness to be hurried by commercial pressure and a kind of psychological imperative. Lives are measured not in years but in books. Ardent readers of EL Doctorow, for example, will have come to expect a big novel from him just about exactly once every five years for the past half century.
The special pleasure of a Doctorow novel is that each inhabits a perfectly self-enclosed time and place – the 1920s New York of 1975′s Ragtime, the epic civil war journey through the southern states of 2005′s The March – yet is imbued with his perfectly pitched authorial voice. His new novel, Andrew’s Brain, written in his 82nd year and published in January, takes him inwards, to the loops and pathways of a neurologist’s mind. It reflects a “late period” for the novelist that bears comparison with that of his contemporary Philip Roth.
There are some real goodies in the Irish literary basket this spring. Sebastian Barry’s follow-up to The Secret Scripture is The Temporary Gentleman (Faber and Faber, April), the story of Jack McNulty’s career in the British army. Colm Tóibín goes back to the 1960s for his new novel, Nora Webster (Viking, May), while Joseph O’Connor’s The Thrill of It All (Harvill Secker, May) tracks the formation – and reformation – of a 1980s band. Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music (Picador, March) is inspired by true events in San Francisco in 1876, and the death of a contemporary Irish poet is the starting point for David Park’s The Poets’ Wives (Bloomsbury, February).
2014 will see new novels from Barbara Taylor Bradford, Jodi Picoult and Ken Follett. You can also expect new thrillers from Stephen King, John Connolly and Scandinavian crime supremo Jo Nesbo.
Sarah Waters, who has been short-listed three times for the Man Booker prize will release her new novel, The Paying Guests, which is set in London in 1922.
IF 2013 was a blockbuster 12 months for local fiction, with JM Coetzee, Tim Winton, Richard Flanagan, Alexis Wright, Alex Miller, Christos Tsioklas and Tom Keneally publishing novels, this year international authors will take centre stage. We can expect new works from Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Joyce Carol Oates, Emma Donoghue, EL Doctorow, Isabel Allende, Haruki Murakami and many others.
But let’s return home to kick off this preview of the books of 2014. David Malouf, one of the finest writers this country has produced, turns 80 on March 20 and the occasion will be marked by the publication of a new collection of poetry, Earth Hour (UQP, March), his first since the award-winning Typewriter Music (2007).
Galgut, twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, offers a partially fictionalized exploration of the life and work of E.M. Forster—starting with the “passage to India” on the SS Birmingham in 1912 that would inspire his famous novel of the same name. On his voyage, the writer and intellectual then known as Morgan Forster comes to a greater understanding of both the nuances of human nature and of himself.