Carole Angier

The unwilling executioner

Carole Angier reviews Imre Kertész’s new novel Fatelessness, Imre Kertész’s first novel, fitted one of the coolest accounts we have of Auschwitz into a mere 262 pages. Detective Story, his third, distills it still further into 113, each of them mercilessly sharp and clear. This time Kertész sets his story in an unnamed South American dictatorship; but

An abstract debate

Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader was one of the masterpieces of Germany’s own Holocaust literature. It combined the pace of a thriller (which Schlink also writes) with the agony of the German second generation, torn between love of their elders and horror at their past. Homecoming returns to this theme. It too displays the skills of

Always on the side of the wolf

Poor old Fordie. That was Ford’s eternal cry, and it is repeated often here. His father called him ‘the patient but extremely stupid Ass’, his very name — Huffer — meant ‘Ass’, so was changed first to Hueffer, then to Ford. As a writer he was disliked (‘It is me they dislike, not the time-shift’),

Pied Piper of Bougainville

We won’t know the Man Booker Prize longlist until 7 August, but Mister Pip had better be on it. It knocks the only New Zealand winner so far, the notorious Bone People, for six. It mightn’t win, because it falls to bits in the last 20 pages, but up to then it joins a fresh

Finding an exceptional voice

At the end of his excellent introduction to Auschwitz Report, Robert Gordon invokes W.G. Sebald’s argument in his last book, On the Natural History of Destruction: compared to ‘natural histories’, e.g. contemporary medical reports such as this one, more literary texts ‘[know] nothing’. W.G. Sebald was one of the greatest thinker-writers of the 20th century,

Grand Guignol grotesquery

Listing page content here Alan Warner’s first novel, Morvern Callar, was macabre, bizarre and brilliant. This, his fifth, is equally macabre and bizarre, but less brilliant. So I first thought. Then I realised that it doesn’t lack heart, but only hides it. That in itself, I suppose, is rather brilliant. The first pages hook us

Belonging and not belonging

Nicola Lacey wanted to write an ‘intellectual biography’ of Herbert Hart, on the model of Hermione Lee’s Virginia Woolf. It’s a tall order. How to cope with the fact that the philosophy of law is even harder to understand than Virginia Woolf’s novels? And though an academic lawyer like Lacey is the best person to

The awkward squad | 16 October 2004

The introduction to Alone! Alone! is very good. It’s modest and candid, and everything Rosemary Din- nage says about book-reviewing is spot on (e.g. ‘If it’s about misery, send it to Dinnage’ — funny, I thought that was me.) Especially this: ‘It’s sometimes like writing a diary, or a running commentary of evolving ideas.’ That’s

His own worst enemy | 12 June 2004

Jonathan Coe is a novelist — a very good novelist. He is not a biographer; indeed he dislikes biography, as he frequently tells us. Given that, he’s done a damn good job. Poor B. S. Johnson leaps off these pages: pathologically morbid and clinically depressed, wildly superstitious and self-dramatising. requiring perfect love and devotion from

Hands across three centuries

Artemisia Gentileschi (b. 1593) is a feminist icon of such power that she has penetrated even to these islands, for instance in a book by our own feminist icon, Germaine Greer. Not only was Artemisia almost the only woman artist of her age, but while still in her teens she was raped by a fellow-artist,