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The Krasznahorkai challenge

The Krasznahorkai challenge

The "discovery" of László Krasznahorkai continues apace in the wake of the Hungarian's Man Booker International Prize victory. A review by Hari Kunzru of Seiobo There Below in the Guardian is part of an advance guard – watch out for more newspaper, magazine and website reviews of his work over the coming weeks. Kunzru, like others, has found himself agreeing with the MBI judges' choice ("the intensity of [Krasznahorkai's] commitment to the art of fiction is indisputable") and restating that the English-speaking literary world has its limitations: "in ambition and seriousness [Seiobo] matches any English-language fiction of recent times. As the worthy winner of this year’s Man Booker International prize, Krasznahorkai throws down a challenge: raise your game or get your coat."


An interesting alternative view on international writing comes from India. In a fascinating piece in The Hindu various senior literary figures there noted the health of Indian literature and that part of the reason for its vivacity is the number of writers who use English as their first language. Importantly though, says Pranav Kumar Singh, Head of Editorial at Pan Macmillan India, "the usage is neither Queen’s nor American and the expression and context is completely Indian" – it is a new hybrid, in other words. As a result: "We have authors, both Indian and of Indian origin, whose works showcase that we are increasingly more global and inclusive." Two of the writers picked out as representatives of the new style, "World English", were Neel Mukherjee, MB shortlisted last year, and Amitav Ghosh, a contender for this year's MBI Prize. 


Congratulations to Professor Louise Richardson, who has just been nominated as the first female Vice Chancellor of Oxford University (it is the vice chancellors who do the real work). Prof Richardson, currently at St Andrews, will become the 272 vice chancellor and first woman to hold the post since the university's inception in 1230. This is, of course, highly laudable but more important by far is the fact that the professor is also a new trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation – the charitable arm of the prize which funds initiatives to foster reading in universities, libraries, prisons and among the blind.


Kazuo Ishiguro, Man Booker winner in 1989 with The Remains of the Day, has just turned 60 and he is in reflective mood. Looking back recently at his early books he says: "I actually have begun to question whether the whole premise of those books was right, to be honest. When I was younger and wrote books like The Remains of the Day, I assumed that if you get your moral values right at a certain stage, you can steer a good course through your life." He has since learned, he says, that moral values change: "That whole model of figuring out values, debating them in pubs and student halls of residence, and then those values then seeing you through [life], applies only up to a point. Actually, you discover you do not have that much control over your life." Ishiguro is a notoriously slow writer so there will be quite a wait to see how this new consciousness emerges in his fiction.