2010 Reading Highlights: Margaret von Klemperer

2010-12-01 00:00

THIS year’s choices have been difficult: I’ve read plenty of pretty good books, but not too many outstanding ones.

But I’ll top the list with Damon Galgut’s In A Strange Room, the haunting, three-part look at a man searching for love, a place, a rootedness, and delving into the psyche of the traveller, the searcher, the carer. By playing with first- and third-person narrative, Galgut shows how time distances you from your earlier selves. Pity it didn’t win the Man Booker.

A couple of lighter reads: one that deserved better promotional effort from South African booksellers is Marie Heese’s The Double Crown. It won the Africa region Commonwealth prize this year, and makes you care about the central character, the shadowy female Pharoah, Hatshepsut. And this year’s Exclusive Books’ Boeke winner, David Nicholls­’ One Day is a must for the holidays. Clever, funny and moving, it follows Emma and Dexter over 20 years on the anniversary of their first encounter.

I’ll just sneak in an extra: Chowringhee by Sankar. First published in Bengali in 1962, it has only now appeared in English. It’s a wonderful, picaresque romp with the staff of the Shahjahan Hotel in Calcutta, ultimately plotless but a great big feast of a book.

Stepping Stones (Faber and Faber, 2008) records a series of interviews conducted by Dennis O’Driscoll with Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. The poet speaks engagingly of his origins, the genesis of many of his poems, the process of writing, his associations with other poets (notably Ted Hughes and Czeslaw Milosz), the experience of winning the Nobel Prize (1995), and his current work. As interviewer, O’Driscoll is skilled and well informed, and the result is an immensely readable text which combines, in the poet’s responses, both colloquial spontaneity and distilled thought.

Heaney’s recent (2009) translation of The Testament of Cresseid and Seven Fables provides access to the work of little-known medieval Scot, Robert Henryson. Inspired by Chaucer and a subsequent anonymous text, Henryson conceives a moving demise for the hapless Cressida, who resorts to prostitution following her abandonment by the Greek Diomedes and is cursed (by a coterie of vengeful gods) with leprosy.

In The War that Killed Achilles (Faber and Faber, 2009), Caroline Alexander argues that Homer’s Iliad­ might be read as a criticism, rather than as a celebration of war. Scrutinising the text and making comparisons with contemporary killing fields, she highlights the futility of the conflict, the disillusionment of the combatants and the tragic waste of life which extends even to its greatest (and reluctant) hero.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.