Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anne Enright, Mohsin Hamid and Rana Dasgupta

So, finally, the verdict is out. To the disappointment of many, Anne Enright's novel, The Gathering, has won this year's Booker:

Irish writer Anne Enright won the Man Booker fiction prize for "The Gathering," an uncompromising portrait of a troubled family that its author called the literary equivalent of a Hollywood weepie.

Enright had been considered a long-shot to take Britain's most prestigious, and contentious, literary trophy.

The prize, which carries a cheque for 50,000 pounds (US$100,000; ?75,000), was awarded during a ceremony last evening at London's medieval Guildhall.

She is the second Irish writer to win the prize in the past three years, after John Banville's "The Sea" in 2005.

"The Gathering" is a family epic set in England and Ireland, in which a brother's suicide prompts 39-year-old Veronica Hegarty to probe her family's troubled, tangled history.

Enright said people looking for a cheery read should not pick up her book.

Sharon has done a good job of collecting some interesting viewpoints, adding her own insights on this issue. Worth a read.

I can't offer my opinion on this (how am I feeling?) as I haven't read Enright's novel (but I would want to; her novel's theme appeals to me). But why to spoil her day? Three cheers for Enright!

A note from The Guardian:

Disappointed though he will doubtless be, Ian McEwan can at least take comfort from his incredibly healthy sales. On Chesil Beach is far outselling the other books on the shortlist combined (not to mention the surge of sales for Atonement in the wake of Joe Wright's film). Sales figures of the other books, by contrast, exemplify the tough climate for literary fiction in the marketplace - and Enright's book has so far shifted just 3,253 copies. The latest figures from Nielsen BookScan show that the McEwan has sold a total of 120,362; Nicola Barker's Darkmans, 11,097; Mister Pip, 5,170; Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist 4,425, and Indra Sinha's Animal's People 2,589.

Indians might be disappointed too as Indira Sinha's novel, Animal's People, was also on the shortlist. But I have no idea how many Indians were rooting for her. I read an interesting review of her work in The Time recently.

Coming back to the number of books sold from the Booker shortlist, here's an interesting thought. How can the sale of a book (a novel nominated for this year’s Booker) in UK and USA reflect the culture of those nations? Believe it or not, it is a study in contrast. The NYT did a story on this. Read it here:

WHEN Mohsin Hamid embarked on an 18-city book tour across the United States, he found readers receptive to his latest novel. It is the story of a young Pakistani Princeton graduate who feels empathy with America, but becomes so disillusioned by the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks that he packs up and returns home to the city of Lahore.

The response was so strong that Mr. Hamid, 36, with only one previous novel, sold close to 100,000 copies of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", enough to propel the book, a work of more literary tone than popular flavor, onto the New York Times best-seller list last spring.

Now Mr. Hamid is the center of literary attention in Britain, where the novel is on the short list for the Man Booker Prize to be announced Tuesday.

But while his novel has received critical acclaim in Britain, home to nearly two million Muslims, the commercial reception has been cooler. In a country where people are worried about what has become known as "the enemy within", sales of a novel that speaks unnervingly to fear and disquiet about Muslims have yet to reach more than several thousand.

To Mr. Hamid, the contrast is telling of the difference between the United States, and its embrace of newcomers, and Europe, particularly Britain, where immigrants can forever, it seems, be made to feel like outsiders.

Finally, here's a call for a lit event in Singapore. My friend Deepika sends me this news. Please spread it far and wide and do attend if you happen to be in Singapore:

FROM 3pm-4pm
PH: 6473-6763


Suzan Abrams said...

Sinha and I are acquaintances. It's a 'he'. A man.

Zafar Anjum said...

Aha ha, thanks for correcting me Suzan. I mistook Indira for a woman writer. Indira is usually associated with the female gender as in Indira Gandhi. And I hadn't seen any of Sinha's pics that closely.

Suzan Abrams said...

Hey u Zaf,
Not to worry. I too, was guilty of the very same. :-)
Enjoy the Dasupta event.