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Waiting for the click

Waiting for the click

An interesting piece from India about David Grossman's Man Booker International Prize win will strike a chord with many readers of fiction. The writer, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, describes trying to read a previous Man Booker International shortlistee, Elena Ferrante, and waiting for that moment of recognition, familiar to all readers, when they know the book is for them: ‘the click I wait for in my brain, sometimes as soft as a door opening, sometimes as hard as a match striking a box’. Ferrante didn't click and Madhavan picked up A Horse Walks Into a Bar with little expectation either, not least because it is translated and ‘I can always see the translator lurking between me and the author, a sort of edgy English, stilted sometimes, not as easy as having a conversation.’ But despite this and despite the fact that the comedian central character, Dovaleh Greenstein, is so off-putting ‘that you want to avert your eyes and turn to the nearest PG Wodehouse to soothe yourself’, Madhavan found herself rushing through the book: ‘And this from a book I had been dying to leave unread only a few hours ago!’ That experience is exactly what the Man Booker International sets out to do in a nutshell.


As was noted last week, while Grossman's win has been widely hailed in his native Israel – as was the fact that a country with a population the size of that of New York City had, with Amos Oz, two writers on the Man Booker International shortlist – its politicians have been more grudging. This is due to Grossman's long-standing criticisms of the Israeli government's attitude towards Palestine. Grossman did win praise though from Miri Regev, the culture minister and a former army censor. Were the Booker Prize Foundation to sponsor a new award for the world's worst pun, Regev is a shoe-in: ‘Grossman is definitely a winning horse’, she said. Trump that.


A marginal note regarding A Horse Walks Into a Bar: the novel already has its own Wikipedia page – that's how quickly history moves today.


New Zealand is having a moment of sporting glory: its unfancied yachtsmen have just won the America's Cup, trouncing the US, and its rugby team is – at the time of writing – one win away from claiming the Test series against the British Lions. The difference between the country's celebration of its sporting successes and its artistic ones though has not gone unnoticed by the graphic artist Ruby Nyika. Talking about the youngest ever Man Booker winner, Eleanor Catton (2013), Nyika said recently: ‘It's kind of crazy, you know, thinking that everybody is planning – for the yachting people – they're planning town parades … but for somebody to win the biggest prize in literature, nobody would think of having a parade.’ She has a point. Maybe Catton could don an All Black's rugby jersey and make their parade a joint one (if they win).


Another Man Booker winner, Paul Beatty, is apparently mulling over an offer to appear on America's version of Who Do You Think You Are? Beatty though has a wide contrarian streak – ‘When I'm in a room and sense that everyone is thinking the same thing, it just makes me nervous. I even refuse to sing Happy Birthday’ – and is minded to refuse the invitation because he worries that its producers ‘might want me to cry on camera’.