Monday, 25 May 2009

Man Booker Prize bibliography 1971



In a Free State. VS Naipaul, Deutsch, London, 1971. Relatively common - £30 or above in dustwrapper. However, high end signed copy £400 - 600. Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born August 17, 1932, in Trinidad, where his grandfather, an indentured worker, had come from India. An agnostic, Naipaul very early experienced a profound alienation, both from the close-knit family life of his Brahmin ancestors and from the social and political life of his native Trinidad. He won a scholarship to University College in Oxford, and subsequently made his home in England. In 2001 Naipaul won the Nobel Prize for literature.

"The novel is set in a free state of Africa at a time of civil conflict when a once-ruling tribe is being decimated. But for English people like Bobby and Linda, driving back from the capital to their expatriates' compound, the roads are open. Neutral, white, protected, they have both in their different ways found liberation in Africa, and they too might be said to be 'in a free state'. But their neutrality will not last; there is a danger on the open road. Exploiter and exploited: it is one of the conditions of life in a free state that the roles should ceaselessly shift. Ths is not the Africa of romance or 'service', but something infinitely more ambiguous."


The Big Chapel. Thomas Kilroy, Faber and Faber, London, 1971. Relatively uncommon, but available at present for £30 - 40.
Thomas Kilroy, an Irish playwright and novelist, was born on 23 September 1934 in Green Street, Callan, County Kilkenny and studied at University College, Dublin. In his early career he was play editor at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. In the 1980s, he sat on the board of Field Day Theatre Company, founded by Brian Friel and Stephen Rea in 1980, and was Director of its touring company. He became Professor of English in University College, Galway, a post from which he resigned in 1989 to concentrate on writing. He now lives in County Mayo and is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters, the Royal Society of Literature, and Aosdána. He has published widely, but The Big Chapel is his only novel, and in addition to being shortlisted for the 1971 Booker Prize it was also the winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize. It is a novel about a man, a family and a town.

"Basing his work upon a notorious clerical scandal of Victorian Ireland, Thomas Kilroy has written an anatomy of religious violence that remains relevant. In scenes that range from the private and lyrical to the panorama of a whole community in convulsion he draws upon a deep knowledge of the history and folklore of nineteenth-century Ireland.
While there is a great deal of humour in The Big Chapel it is, finally, a work of grave tragic proportions. It is the characters however that remain longest in the memory. Father Lannigan, the anguished demagogue, the man haunted by the implications of his own revolution. Emerine Scully, a man unable to choose, at a time when all men are faced by choice. And Horace Percy Butler, landlord and amateur scientist, a comic, tragic character who is quite unlike anyone else in Irish fiction. The novel is punctuated with extracts from Butler's journal which is itself a remarkable tour de force."

Briefing for a Descent into Hell, Doris Lessing, Jonathan Cape, London 1971. Readily available at £10 or less.
This book links two key phases in the career of the 2007 Nobel Prize winner, who was the daughter of British parents but was born in Iran in 1919 and grew up in South Africa. She left school and home at an early age, finally moving to England in 1949. There she began her career as a novelist, publishing The Grass is Singing in 1950. During the 1950s she worked on what was to become 5 novels in the Children of Violence series, and in 1962 she gained international notice for her novel The Golden Notebook. Often cited as a heroic figure to feminists, Lessing has continued to write novels, graphic novels, librettos and essays, including works influenced by science fiction and Sufi mysticism. She won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2007.

"Penniless, rambling and incoherent, a man is found wandering at night on London's Embankment. Taken to hospital and heavily sedated, he tells the doctors of his incredible fantastical voyage, adrift on the ocean, landing on unknown shores, flying on the back of a huge white bird. Identified as Charles Walker, a Cambridge Classics professor, he is visited by family and friends, each revealing clues to the nature of his breakdown: both his young wife, Felicity, and his mistress, Constance, have been troubled by his cold detachment; his fellow dons are bewildered by Watkins's recent anti-social outburst and anarchistic theories on the futility of education. As the doctors try to cure him, Watkins begins a fierce battle to hold on to his magnificent inner world, as it gradually acquires a greater reality than the everyday...An extraordinary blend of fantasy and realism, Briefing for a Descent into Hell is one of Doris Lessing's most brilliantly achieved novels; it links her early work, which explored the nature of subjectivity, with her later experiments in science fiction."

St. Urbain's Horseman, Mordecai Richler, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1971. Readily available at under £20.
Mordecai Richler, CC (January 27, 1931 – July 3, 2001) was a Canadian author, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and essayist. The son of a scrapyard dealer, Richler was born and raised on St. Urbain Street in the Mile End area of Montreal. He enrolled in Sir George Williams College (now Concordia University) to study English but dropped out before completing his degree. He moved to Paris, France at age nineteen, intent on following in the footsteps of a previous generation of literary exiles, the so-called Lost Generation of the 1920s. Richler returned to Montreal in 1952, working briefly at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, then moved to London, England in 1954. Worrying "about being so long away from the roots of my discontent", he returned to Montreal in 1972, but continued to spend part of each year in London.
Throughout his career, Richler wrote acerbic journalistic commentary and delighted in the role of contrarian provocateur. He was an iconoclast with little tolerance for pretense or pomposity. In a characteristic putdown, Richler called Canadian film entrepreneurs "snivelling little greasers on the make." Richler contributed to The Atlantic Monthly, Look, and The New Yorker. In his later years, Richler was a newspaper columnist for The National Post and Montreal's The Gazette. He was often critical of Quebec and Canadian nationalism. Another favorite Richler target was the government-subsidized Canadian literary movement of the 1970s and 80s. Richler was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2001, just a few months before his death.He wrote eleven novels, St.Urbain's Horseman being the first of two to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

"St. Urbain’s Horseman is a complex, moving, and wonderfully comic evocation of a generation consumed with guilt – guilt at not joining every battle, at not healing every wound. Thirty-seven-year-old Jake Hersh is a film director of modest success, a faithful husband, and a man in disgrace. His alter ego is his cousin Joey, a legend in their childhood neighbourhood in Montreal. Nazi-hunter, adventurer, and hero of the Spanish Civil War, Joey is the avenging horseman of Jake’s impotent dreams. When Jake becomes embroiled in a scandalous trial in London, England, he puts his own unadventurous life on trial as well, finding it desperately wanting as he steadfastly longs for the Horseman’s glorious return. Irreverent, deeply felt, as scathing in its critique of social mores as it is uproariously funny, St. Urbain’s Horseman confirms Mordecai Richler’s reputation as a pre-eminent observer of the hypocrisies and absurdities of modern life."

Goshawk Squadron, Derek Robinson. London, Heinemann, 1971. Reasonably common for around £20 in dustwrapper.
Derek Robinson (born 1932) is a British author best known for his military aviation novels full of black humour. He has also written several books on some of the more sordid events in the history of Bristol, his home town, as well as guides to rugby. Goshawk Squadron was his first novel, and the only one so far to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
After attending Cotham Grammar School, Robinson served in the Royal Air Force as a fighter plotter. He has a History degree from Cambridge University, where he attended Downing College, has worked in advertising and as a broadcaster on radio and television. He was a qualified rugby referee for over thirty years and is a life member of Bristol Society of Rugby Referees. He was married in 1964.[5

Set during the height of World War I in January 1918, Goshawk Squadron follows the misfortunes of the titular (fictional) British fighter squadron on the Western Front. For Stanley Woolley, commanding officer of Goshawk Squadron, the romance of chivalry in the clouds is just a myth. The code he drums into his men is simple and savage: shoot the enemy in the back before he knows you're there. Even so, he believes the whole squadron will be dead within three months. Woolley has returned from medical leave and immediately sets about training his pilots in a demanding and realistic regimen, which the novices find objectionable and unreasonable. His lesson, to be drummed into his men over and over, is that they are there to kill, not to survive. This attitude manifests itself in many ways, for example, Woolley's refusal to request Sopwith Camels or Pups for his squadron. The men insist that these aircraft have better performance than their SE-5a's, but Woolley refuses on the grounds that the SE-5a is a solid and steadier gun platform than those faster and more maneuverable planes. The chapters are appropriately numbered and named according to meteorological gale force measurements. The story, and intensity of combat, build gradually until the end of the book, when the Germans launch the Ludendorff Offensive. A sub-plot of the story is the British corps command's requirement that Woolley offer up one of his men for court-martial (and certain conviction) for the accidental death of a French restaurateur (the hapless fellow fell to his death when the gendarmes burst into his place to break up a squadron party). The role of sacrificial lamb keeps changing, as each man Woolley selects is killed in action before he can be arrested. Death is so arbitrary and frequent that Woolley can't even remember his pilot's names, though several times he asks after Mackenzie (from Hornet's Sting) before sheepishly recalling that the man is dead.A monumental work at the time of its original release, Booker-shortlisted Goshawk Squadron is now viewed as a classic in the mode of Catch 22. Wry, brutal, cynical and hilarious, the men of Robinson's squadron are themselves an embodiment of the maddening contradictions of war: as much a refined troop of British gentleman as they are a vicious band of brothers hell-bent on staying alive and winning the war.

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor. Reasonably uncommon, and costing £40 or more at present.
Elizabeth Coles was born in Reading, Berkshire in 1912. She was educated at The Abbey School, Reading, and worked as a governess, as a tutor and as a librarian. In 1936, she married John Michael Taylor, a businessman. She lived in Penn, Buckinghamshire, for almost all her married life. She wrote twelve novel, with her first (At Mrs. Lippincote's) being published in 1945. In addition, her short stories were published in various magazines and collected in four volumes. She also wrote a children's book. Taylor's work is mainly concerned with the nuances of "everyday" life and situations, which she writes about with dexterity. Her shrewd but affectionate portrayals of middle class and upper middle class English life won her an audience of discriminating readers, as well as loyal friends in the world of letters. She died at age 63 of cancer. Taylor has been compared to Jane Austen, Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Bowen. In recent years new interest has been kindled by movie makers in her work. French director Francois Ozon, has made The Real Life of Angel Deverell (2007). American director Dan Ireland made a screen adaptation of Taylor's Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (2005).

"When Mrs. Palfrey, a genteel, elderly widow, arrives with her possessions at the formerly elegant Claremont Hotel in London, she expects "something quite different." Planning to stay at least a month, possibly permanently, she prefers her independence in this aging London hotel to living in Scotland near her daughter, who begrudges the attention she pays her. A variety of elderly eccentrics call the Claremont home--an aging "actress," a ditzy busybody, a haughty observer of the social niceties, a woman who fancies herself an ingénue. The residents put up a good front, but their loneliness and boredom are obvious--no one visits them, they rarely leave the hotel, and nothing in their lives changes very much.

When she falls while walking one day, Mrs. Palfrey is rescued by Ludovic Meyer, a struggling young writer. Because of his kindness and her pleasure in his attention, she invites him to dinner, where the residents assume he is her grandson Desmond. Ludo/Desmond is everything that the other residents of the hotel long for--he genuinely cares for Mrs. Palfrey, he listens to her, and he recognizes her value. Having never known a normal family life, Ludo needs Mrs. Palfrey as much as she needs him, and she happily becomes his much-needed "grandmother."

As the two develop a relationship, Mrs. Palfrey reminisces about her married life, teaching Ludo about the many kinds of love and all its pleasures, and he, having failed in past relationships, begins to understand what love means, blossoming under her attention. He takes notes as Mrs. Palfrey shares her past for a story he plans to write about her life and her experiences at the Claremont, where the informal motto is "We Aren't Allowed to Die Here." As time passes and life becomes more complicated for both of them, their relationship is tested.

Filled with hilariously eccentric characters who respond to aging in different ways, this 1975 novel shows a feisty Mrs. Palfrey challenging convention by reveling in her relationship Ludo. With an unerring eye for the telling detail and the perfectly revealing comment, the author brings universal themes to vibrant life--the passage of time, the aging process, the compromises we make, and our continuing need to be accepted. The author never resorts to caricature as she makes her wry observations, respecting her characters even when presenting them in sometimes hilarious scenes. In this sweetly romantic comic masterpiece, old age is shown as a stage in life, not its conclusion."

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