Julian Barnes, the cerebral, francophile 2011 Man Booker winner, is it seems as much at home on the football terraces as in his study. In the wake of Leicester City's wildly improbable Premier League triumph Barnes has outed himself as a fully-fledged scarf-waving, chanting Foxes fan. Leicester is the city he grew up in and, he says, those early allegiances are for life. He has, as a result, a ‘ludicrous and frantic love’ for his home-town footy team and has stood by them through thick and thin – though ‘mostly thin’, he noted. His life-long fandom, and that of his fellows, should not be usurped by newcomers jumping on the Leicester bandwagon, he reckons: ‘we should claim some primacy of emotion for all those years of pain’. Barnes even claims that in his 1989 novel A History of the World in 10½ Chapters he sort-of predicted Leicester's success but also went on to fantasise that the entire team was picked to play for England in the World Cup, beating Brazil 4-1. Well, his day job is all about the imagination.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction has been won. Rabai al-Madhoun was awarded the $50,000 prize at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi for his novel Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba. The book is a highly-charged story for a prize that is popularly known as the Arabic Booker, since it is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation.
At the announcement of the shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize on Thursday, the prize's director, Fiammetta Rocco, summed up its raison d'être perfectly: ‘If you believe that what unites us is stronger than what divides us, then this is the prize for you.’ It seemed to those gathered in the elegant surroundings of the Orangery at Kensington Palace a nice way of cutting through the flummery and chaff to state why books – and this prize – matter.
The Man Booker International Prize has revealed the shortlist of six books in contention for the 2016 Prize, celebrating the finest in global fiction.
Elena Ferrante, the pseudonymous Italian (probably) author of The Story of the Lost Child, is one of the novelists in contention for the Man Booker International Prize – at least for now: the shortlist is announced next week, 14th April. Whether she makes the cut or not Ms/Mrs/Mr Ferrante has something else to look forward to. Her sequence of four novels is being turned into a 32-part television series in Italy. Pity though the poor scriptwriter, Francesco Piccolo. Even for such an epic task Ferrante will not reveal herself and work with him directly. All communication will be by email. According to her agent: ‘She will not literally write the script but she will read – I believe – everything. Every single draft, every single scene. She will go through it and by email she will express her thoughts, suggestions, advice. She is not the kind of person who says: ‘I wrote it, now you go do the rest.’’ This bizarre way of working – they have telephones in Italy after all – might well turn Piccolo's hair grey. As one bigwig at the TV production company put it rather drily: ‘It will not be very easy, probably.’