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A return to Wolf Hall

A return to Wolf Hall

If reports are to be believed then the BBC has already started putting money aside for its candle budget. The corporation is in discussion with Hilary Mantel about filming The Mirror and the Light, the last part of her double Man Booker-winning trilogy. The director, Peter Kominsky, recently admitted that 'We've spoken to her about it and the book is going well but it's not going to be a short one.' This is one more tease for a book that is rapidly becoming the most anticipated novel in recent times. It might though be fairer on the part of the Beeb not to use up Dame Hilary's writing time with distracting filming plans but leave her to get on and write the thing.


Sir Peter Stothard, chair of the 2012 panel that gave Mantel her second Man Booker prize, has been reflecting on the nature of literary judgement and the importance of traditional criticism: 'My experience of the Man Booker was that if you really worked at it', even if it was 'hard to compare one book against the other because they were very different, you could compare the strength of the argument for each book'. For Stothard, 'that was an important lesson, which I think extends beyond prizes to the way in which we look at books in the media in general'.


Congratulations to Jim Crace whose MB 2013 shortlisted Harvest has just won the €100,000 Impac Dublin prize. It caps a remarkable turnaround. Although Crace is one of Britain's best – and best-loved – novelists he had mooted giving up writing and abandoned his previous book after 40,000 words. He had to write Harvest though because he owed his publishers the advance. 'But now I owe a book to nobody. So I’ve retired,' he says. 'We’ve bought a house, and we’ve made a garden, and now I feel I’m doing what a lot of retired people do, and that is taking up writing as a hobby. It sounds like I’m joking, but what I feel is that I will do exactly what I want to do.' Good for him. And good for his readers too since 'as it happens, I am actually writing a new book'.


A rather brilliant summation from the critic Jane Shilling of a widespread reaction prompted by László Krasznahorkai's Man Booker International win: “In bookish anglophone circles, the awarding of a major literary prize to an author who writes in a language other than English usually provokes a sort of guilty classroom shuffling. The swotty few seize the opportunity to parade their recondite expertise, while everybody else tries desperately to catch up.” Having played catch up herself she concludes that Krasznahorkai's prose is 'not 'difficult' to read at all, merely requiring a certain concentrated submission to [its] rhythms'.


There is a distinct possibility that at this particular moment in time Sam Leith is the best-read man in the world of contemporary literature. Not only is he one of this year's Man Booker judges (currently closing in on the longlist announcement in a little over a month's time) but he was also a judge of the 2015 PEN Pinter Prize that has just been awarded to the poet James Fenton. His fellow judges included the Man Booker alumni Lady Antonia Fraser (Booker – as was – judge in 1970) and Hisham Matar (shortlistee 2006).