Best reads 2007: Moira Lovell

2007-11-28 00:00

Of the fiction I reviewed in 2007, I particularly recommend Raj Kamal Jha’s Fireproof, a novel, both brilliant and bizarre, conceived in response to a month of Hindu-Muslim violence that left over 1 000 dead in Gujarat, India, in 2002. Concerned with the nature of mob violence, in which individual responsibility is negated and individual conscience suppressed, Jha is breathtakingly inventive, giving voice to a protagonist-narrator, cohorts of whispering dead and even inanimate witnesses of atrocities.

Peeling the Onion is the lyrical autobiography of Nobel Laureate, Günter Grass. Although not bound by chronological constraints, the work covers his formative years as an uncritical German youth seduced by Nazi propaganda and concludes with his commitment to a life of writing, following the publication of his iconic first novel, The Tin Drum (1959). Acknowledging the unreliable nature of memory and frequently interrogating the veracity of his recollections, Grass seems more determinedly honest than many memoirists.

Guerra!, Jason Webster’s absorbing book on the Spanish Civil War, was stimulated by the discovery of a mass grave near his farm in Valencia. It is part history and part personal observation and investigation, as Webster travels in modern Spain, visiting significant sites. He reminds readers of the many writers magnetised by events in Spain in the thirties and has evocative chapters on the killing of Garcia Lorca (1936) and the destruction of Guernica (1937).

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