Annal: 1994 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Results of the Man Booker Prize in the year 1994.

Book:How Late It Was, How Late

How Late It Was, How Late

James Kelman

A raw, wry vision of human survival in a bureaucratic world, How Late It Was, How Late opens one Sunday morning in Glasgow, Scotland, as Sammy, an ex-convict with a penchant for shoplifting, awakens in a lane and tries to remember the two-day drinking binge that landed him there.  Then, things only get worse.  Sammy gets in a fight with some soldiers, lands in jail, and discovers that he is completely blind.  His girlfriend disappears, the police probe him endlessly, and his stab at Disability Compensation embroils him in the Kafkaesque red tape of the welfare system.

A masterpiece of black humor, subtle political parody, and Scottish lower-class vernacular How Late It Was, How Late is a classic-to-be from one of today’s most talented novelists.

Book:Beside the Ocean of Time

Beside the Ocean of Time

George MacKay Brown

In this novel set on the fictitious island of Norday in the Orkneys, George Mackay Brown beckons us into the imaginary world of the young Thorfinn Ragnarson, the son of a crofter. In his day-dreams he relives the history of this island people, travelling back in time to join Viking adventurers at the court of the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople, then accompanying a Falstaffian knight to the battle of Bannockburn.

Thorfinn wakes to the twentieth century and a community whose way of life, steeped in legend and tradition, has remained unchanged for centuries. But as the boy grows up—and falls in love with a vivacious and mysterious stranger—the transforming effect of modern civilization brings momentous and irreversible changes to the island. During the Second World War Thorfinn finds himself in a German prisoner-of-war camp, and it is here that he discovers his gifts as a writer. Long afterwards he returns, now…[more]

Book:The Folding Star

The Folding Star

Alan Hollinghurst

Edward Manners—thirty-three, disaffected, in search of a new life—has come to an ancient Flemish city to teach English. Almost at once he falls in love with one of his pupils, the seventeen-year-old Luc Altidore, recently expelled from school for some mysterious offense.

Condemned to a mounting but incommunicable obsession with the boy, Edward becomes involved in affairs with two other men: one a heartless but seductive fraud, the other a young drifter with a deeply possessive streak. Then Edward is introduced to the world of the enigmatic and reclusive Symbolist painter Edgard Orst. Gradually he is drawn toward an understanding of the artist’s own obsession with a famous actress, drowned off Ostend at the turn of the century, and of the ambiguous circumstances of Orst’s own death under Nazi occupation. …[more]

Book:Knowledge of Angels

Knowledge of Angels

Jill Paton Walsh

It is, perhaps, the fifteenth century and the ordered tranquillity of a Mediterranean island is about to be shattered by the appearance of two outsiders: one, a castaway, plucked from the sea by fishermen, whose beliefs represent a challenge to the established order; the other, a child abandoned by her mother and suckled by wolves, who knows nothing of the precarious relationship between Church and State but whose innocence will become the subject of a dangerous experiment.

But the arrival of the Inquisition on the island creates a darker, more threatening force which will transform what has been a philosophical game of chess into a matter of life and death…

Book:Paradise (Abdulrazak Gurnah)

Paradise

Abdulrazak Gurnah

Paradise is at once the story of an African boy’s coming of age, a tragic love story, and a tale of the corruption of traditional African patterns by European colonialism. It presents a major African voice to American readers—a voice that prompted Peter Tinniswood to write in the London Times, reviewing Gurnah’s previous novel, “Mr. Gurnah is a very fine writer. I am certain he will become a great one.” Paradise is Abdulrazak Gurnah’s great novel. At twelve, Yusuf, the protagonist of this twentieth-century odyssey, is sold by his father in repayment of a debt. From the simple life of rural Africa, Yusuf is thrown into the complexities of precolonial urban East Africa—a fascinating world in which Muslim black Africans, Christian missionaries, and Indians from the subcontinent coexist in a fragile, subtle social hierarchy. Through the eyes of Yusuf, Gurnah depicts communities at war, trading safaris gone awry, and the universal trials of adolescence. Then, just as Yusuf begins to comprehend the choices…[more]

Book:Reef

Reef

Romesh Gunesekera

Reef is the elegant and moving story of Triton, a talented young chef so committed to pleasing his master’s palate that he is oblivious to the political unrest threatening his Sri Lankan paradise. It is a personal story that parallels the larger movement of a country from a hopeful, young democracy to troubled island society. It is also a mature, poetic novel which the British press has compared to the works of James Joyce, Graham Greene, V.S. Naipaul, and Anton Chekhov.

Reef explores the entwined lives of Mr. Salgado, an aristocratic marine biologist and student of sea movements and the disappearing reef, and his houseboy, Triton, who learns to polish silver until it shines like molten sun; to mix a love cake with ten eggs, creamed butter, and fresh cadju nuts; to marinade tiger prawns; and to steam parrot fish. Through these characters and the forty years of political disintegration their country endures, Gunesekera tells the tragic, sometimes comic, story of a lost paradise and a young man coming to terms with his destiny.

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