It’s been a big week for literary prizes with the announcement of the Man Booker long list hogging most of the headlines. This has resulted in the long list for the annual Dylan Thomas Prize going largely unnoticed which is a shame, not least because this is the centenary year of the Wales’s most famous son.
The Dylan Thomas prize was set up seven years ago to encourage and develop exciting young talent and is open to writers aged 39, across all genres. The list just announced includes former Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton (the Luminaries) and Bailey’s Women’s Prize winner Eimear McBride (A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing). Welsh poet and author Owen Sheers is there as is fellow poet Jamaican Kei Miller, crime writer Tom Rob
If periods of time can ever have national identities, 2014 is turning out to be my year of South American literature. Starting with the Good Offices, a satire on the Colombian Catholic Church by Evelio Rosero, through the recently released At Night We Dance in Circles by the talented Peruvian Daniel ALarcon (review to appear here shortly) and most recently His Own Man by Brazilian Edgard Telles Ribeiro. His Own Man is the story of ambitious Brazilian diplomat Marcilio Andrade Xavier, generally known as Max, slowly revealed through the retrospective observations of a colleague he first met in Rio de Janiero in 1968 at Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Pieced together over the decades, each fragment reveals Max’s transition from confident, ambitious newcomer to consummate player in an international game that sees democracies brutally toppling across South America – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay:- a web of clandestine interference and manipulation supported by the shadowy sinews of the American CIA and the British M15.
The impact is devastating. Terror becomes the official currency: fear and intimidation, torture and murder, the political weapon of choice. The military, politicians and business leaders make up the rules of the game and are the prime beneficiaries. Those who rebel are silenced with production line efficiency. Others learn to
Happy New Year. I am not a great one for making New Year resolutions, maybe I just don’t have the imagination for setting grand, life-changing targets and I certainly don’t have the fortitude for using an arbitrary deadline to, say, begin the diet I should undertake, or cease imbibing alcohol when I know there’s too many days of holiday living to make do with soda water.
Book-related resolutions are, however, a bit easier. In 2014 I am going to stick with 2013 plan to log every book I read during the year. Not only was it invaluable in doing the end-of-year round-up of my Top Ten books of the year but it is also a wonderful reminder of some of the gems (and not so gem-like) during the year. It always seems ridiculous how