Rarely have I enjoyed the first frost as must as this year.
It’s time to look back, and the theme leaves suggests that I list the books that I found memorable this year.
In the English language, there were several books I really liked. Zero K by Don DeLillo, and The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. DeLillo’s book is atypical for him, the humor of his earlier books has disappeared, and the discussion of the acceptability of death reminded me of classic greek theater. Ishiguro has been writing against being compartmentalized for a while, and his Buried Giant is no exception. I must admit that he has tricked me with this book: I thought it was an easy read, but only later realized that I have forgotten crucial parts, very much akin to the forgetting that is happening in the book itself. It’s a daunting book.
I haven’t read as many French books from this year as I would have wished, mainly because I will probably forever play catch up with previous years. The one outstanding book though is the completely devastating Chanson douce by Leïla Slimani. The book begins with the death of two children, killed by their trusted baby sitter. While we learn more about it, we have to reconsider what makes a life worth living. This book has won the Prix Goncourt this year. While I don’t trust book prizes blindly, they sometimes get it right.
Then there are the books in German. For me, the clear winner is Am Rand, by the Austrian writer Hans Platzgumer. Once more this year we hear about a life, and its end. This appears to be this year’s theme in literature: Ways of dealing with death. This sounds morbid, but the point is that while the protagonists approach death one way or the other, we learn about how they deal with life, and in all the books above there is a lot to learn.
Incidentally, by favorite book this year is not about death at all but rather about a desperate attempt to grasp life. J.M Coetzee’s The Schooldays of Jesus is the sequel to his The Childhood of Jesus, and it is pretty clear that there is more to come. We follow two immigrants (a man and a boy) in a nameless, kafkaesque country. The man is willing to accept his new life, while the young boy questions everything, creating meaning in a senseless world.