RaveThe Guardian (UK)I am so utterly unhip that I wasn’t familiar with the original, but I am now a diehard fan: late to the party, I’m glad to have made it at all ...There are not a lot of good, lucky and nice people in the book ... The stories deliberately blend into one another – themes, characters and motifs recur, and are set in a place called Endland, which both is and is not England, a post-apocalyptic England, ruined, war-damaged, pathetic, sad and self-destructed ... What happens next is never good: the gods are powerless; there are no happy endings ... This could all be incredibly turgid, like subjecting yourself to some dreadful art installation, but it’s not. The stories are nastily funny – sick jokes – and Etchells is a latter-day Menippean satirist. The biggest influence on his early stories, he notes in an afterword, was Mark E Smith of the band the Fall, whose lyrics were glorious, ferocious rages ... The book is horrible, brilliant, deliberately provoking. At times I wished it was over; now I wish it had never stopped.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Colum McCann’s odd and ambitious book contains almost 500 pages of fact and fiction about the Israel‑Palestine conflict, combined with various quotations, asides, remarks, insights, musings and statements of fact on all manner of subjects, including the working habits of Picasso, the invention and manufacture of rubber bullets, the work of senator George Mitchell during the Northern Ireland peace talks and the correspondence between Einstein and Freud ... The book offers few if any of the usual satisfactions of the novel. But as a compendium of facts, a homage, a kind of creative response to the brave, sad work of Aramin and Elhanan, it is both insightful and moving. The amassing of all the incidental detail is what really adds up...
Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, Trans. by Frank Wynne
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Bleak is the word. If EM Cioran, the great Romanian philosopher of the bleak, had been a novelist, Animalia is the kind of novel he would have produced. Published by the courageous Fitzcarraldo, this won’t make it on to a list of beach reads. But it is likely to be hailed as a modern classic. You can’t have everything ... Jean-Baptiste Del Amo has published four novels in his native France. Animalia is the first to appear in English, in a translation by Frank Wynne, whose unenviable task it has been to take Del Amo’s original, Règne Animal, and to capture and convey something of its full throttle, bold, dark profundity. He has triumphantly succeeded: Animalia in English has a truly savage quality, all blood and stench and despair ... Just about everything in Animalia is stained, spoiled, violated, dirty and unpleasant – pick a page, any page, any scene, any person, anything ... If at times the book seems to be drowning in its own despair, elsewhere the sentences soar with heavy wings, and so the reader becomes complicit, awakened to our own filthy needs and desires.