Lounge curates your guide to the finest fiction releases of the year. Bookmark these
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Paul Auster’s latest release, the 800-page 4321, has been described as a “brick” and a “doorstopper”—and indeed, these reviews are representative of the fiction releases of 2017. Heavyweights return after long hiatuses—fans of Haruki Murakami’s fiction will see his first set of short stories in a decade, and Arundhati Roy’s highly anticipated second novel has had the reading world buzzing since its announcement in October. Meanwhile, other writers such as Hannah Kant and Han Kang are also following up their best-selling books with speedy second and third servings. Lounge recommends that you keep the door open for fictional literary landscapes and brace your bookshelves for a loud thud.
For those of you still recovering from the nightmare that was 2016, bury your noses in these already released books. Hannah Kent, whose much loved debut Burial Rites was set in Iceland, travels to 19th century Ireland in her latest work, The Good People (Picador); Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, pens short stories about liminal lives that straddle two worlds in The Refugees (Corsair); and George Saunders finds his first work of long-form fiction in Lincoln In The Bardo (Bloomsbury), a story which is set in a supernatural space between Abraham Lincoln’s son’s life and death. Then there are the much anticipated releases from British-Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid (Exit West) and British-Indian writer Hari Kunzru (White Tears), both from Penguin. Hamid’s story resonates with the contemporary refugee crisis, and Kunzru’s is reflective of envy, exploitation and endless vice in current-day America.
If April is indeed the cruellest month, we recommend you fast-forward to summer, and to this page-turning paperback: In House Of Names (Viking), Colm Tóibín revisits the tale of Clytemnestra, one of Greek mythology’s most powerful villains. Men Without Women: Stories (Harvill Secker) may be Murakami’s first collection of short stories in over a decade, but it sees no departures from his quintessential style. The reader will venture into the world of “vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and The Beatles”. And to say our literary hopes for this year are resting on Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness (Penguin) would be an understatement, but we’ll say it all the same. Roy’s is a story of human and animal characters that, the teaser tells us, is “told with a whisper, with a shout, with tears and with a laugh”.
As we become couch potatoes for the best part of this wet season, expect to settle in with works from four of the finest male writers of the Indian diaspora: Neel Mukherjee, Amit Chaudhuri, Akhil Sharma and Salman Rushdie. Through five characters and multiple narratives, Mukherjee’s A State Of Freedom (Penguin) dissects the varied meanings of dislocation as the defining characteristic of the century. Chaudhuri’s Friend Of My Youth (Penguin) is about a novelist named Amit Chaudhuri who returns to the Bombay of his childhood, and to the city in the aftermath of the 2008 terror attacks. Sharma’s A Life Of Adventure And Delight (Faber & Faber) is a collection of nine short stories, set between New York and New Delhi, which merge elements of memoir with fragments of fiction. From the author of Midnight’s Children comes a timely new release; Salman Rushdie’s The Golden House (Penguin) departs from the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2008, and tells the tale of a tycoon in a post-truth world of political tension and terror.
Winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for The Vegetarian, Han Kang also published Human Acts in the same year. Her next work, The White Book (Granta), is both autobiographical and experimental in nature; in it, the narrator is haunted by memories of an elder sister who died merely 2 hours after birth. This poignant episode prompts a poetic “exploration of white things—the swaddling bands that were also her shroud, the breast milk she did not live to drink, and the blank page on which the narrator herself attempts to reconstruct the story”.
And finally, Ali Smith follows last year’s Autumn with the still-a-work-in-progress second of the seasonal quartet, Winter (Hamish Hamilton)—and all she’s said so far is that winter “is a place where you can see clearly”. And it is here that we hope to cross the literary threshold into 2018—with a touch of clarity.