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Mantel's Cromwell . . . still alive

Mantel's Cromwell . . . still alive

Bad news for fans of Dame Hilary Mantel, two-time Man Booker winner and current Reith lecturer. It seems the concluding novel in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy is further from completion than we thought. The Mirror and the Light was due to be finished soon for publication in 2018 but, according to Mantel, that is looking 'increasingly unlikely'; 2019 is a more realistic option. Why the delay? 'People ask me if I’m having trouble killing off Thomas Cromwell,' says Mantel, 'No, why would I? As soon as [Cromwell is] dead, he will get up, put on his head again and charge on to the TV screen . . . and quite possibly there will be another stage play. So it’s simply a way-station on his road to triumph.' Die-hard fans might wish though that Mantel curtailed her extra-curricular activities – those Reith Lectures don't write themselves – and dedicate herself to Cromwell and Cromwell only.


Sarah Hall, twice a Man Booker nominee, has just published a new book of short stories, Madame Zero. Some of the stories have an erotic undertow and Hall has expanded on the subject in a fascinating piece giving six rules aspiring writers of erotic fiction should follow. 1) Choose your language carefully and avoid cliché. 2) Beware metaphors – 'breasts like melons' is a no-no. 3) Make sure the scene serves the story and is not there simply to grab attention. 4) 'Watch out for those poetic flower bombs, but have licence to be artistic.' 5) Don't be afraid not to write about it. 6) Read other writers who write about sex well. In short, reckons Hall, sex on the page can be as fraught with difficulties and potential embarrassments as the real thing. 'Words are the activators or the assassins of a reader’s imagination – erotic or otherwise,' she says. 'In an attempt to describe a meaningful human interaction, linguistic over-enthusiasm might ruin a piece of text. I wonder how many sexual occasions have really been worthy of a Shakespearean sonnet? Let’s be honest.'


A reflection of modern academia or of the importance of the Man Booker International Prize? One of the papers presented at a conference at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea, was a forensic examination of how faithful the translator Deborah Smith had been to the original text of Han Kang's 2016 MBI-winning The Vegetarian. Apparently 10.9 per cent of the first part of the novel was mistranslated while another 5.7 per cent of the original text was omitted. But does this actually matter? A carefully-argued study of the Korean reaction to the Smith-Han collaboration argues that in some instances the translation actually intensifies the effect of the original and makes Han’s narrative 'stronger and more complex . . . and hence, more provocative to read'. What's more, the writer notes, 'It would serve us well to remember that 'unfaithfulness to the original' doesn’t necessarily mean betrayal, as if the translator carried out wilful acts of mistranslation.' Absolute fidelity to a text remains a knotty subject but “ultimately, Smith carried out perhaps the most important task of all: she successfully introduced a work of literature to people who might otherwise never have had a chance to read it. In that regard, Smith was faithful to the end.”


If you thought Anne Enright's 2007 Man Booker win with The Gathering was a personal victory then think again. According to one website totting up Ireland's cultural highlights of the past 40 years it was about far more than one writer. 'Over the past 40 years, women writers in Ireland have gradually worked their way to the forefront. The culmination of what had been a long, slow battle for equality of opportunity came when Anne Enright stepped up to win the Man Booker Prize,' it noted. “Enright’s reputation has continued to grow. So has the recognition being accorded to Irish women writers, with a new generation including Lisa McInerney, Sara Baume, Eimear McBride and Sally Rooney confirming that women really are doing it for themselves.” It is now a decade since Enright's win and it is fascinating to see how one distinct cultural episode has has broadened and deepened in popular perception.