Results of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in the year 1998.
Set in Romania at the height of Ceausescu’s reign of terror, The Land of Green Plums tells the story of a group of young people who leave the impoverished provinces for the city in search of better prospects and camaraderie. But their hopes are ravaged, because the city, no less than the countryside, bears everywhere the mark of the dictatorship’s corrosive touch. All the narrator’s friends—teachers and students of vaguely dissident allegiance—betray her, do away with themselves, or both. As they do so, we see the way the totalitarian state comes to inhabit every human realm and how everyone, even the strongest, must either bend to the oppressors or resist them and thereby perish.
Herta Muller, herself a survivor of Ceausescu’s police state, speaks from intimate experience.
Margaret Atwood takes us back in time and into the life and mind of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century. Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, the wealthy Thomas Kinnear, and of Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence after a stint in Toronto’s lunatic asylum, Grace herself claims to have no memory of the murders.
Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story, from her family’s difficult passage out of Ireland into Canada, to her time as a maid in Thomas Kinnear’s household. As he brings Grace closer and closer to the day she cannot remember, he hears of the turbulent relationship between Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery, and of the alarming behavior of Grace’s fellow servant, James McDermott. Jordan is drawn to Grace, but he is also baffled by her. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend, a bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she a victim of circumstances?
Jamaica Kincaid’s new novel is the haunting, deeply charged story of a woman’s life on the island of Dominica. Xuela Claudette Richardson, daughter of a Carib mother and a half-Scottish, half-African father, was delivered to his laundress as an infant, bundled up like his clothes. The Autobiography of My Mother is a story of love, fear, loss, and the forging of a character, an account of one woman’s inexorable evolution evoked in startling and magical poetry.
Set in the 18th century, this novel follows Rohini and Vidia, growing up in an Indian village, before being seduced by tales of Plantation Albion. There they find they have been sold into slavery. Having abandoned their families and their culture, they must now learn how to live with themselves.
The Englishman’s Boy brilliantly links together Hollywood in the 1920s with one of the bloodiest, most brutal events of the nineteenth-century Canadian West—the Cypress Hills Massacre. Vanderhaeghe’s rendering of the stark, dramatic beauty of the western landscape and of Hollywood in its most extravagant era—with its visionaries, celebrities, and dreamers—provides vivid background for scenes of action, adventure, and intrigue. Richly textured, evocative of time and place, this is an unforgettable novel about power, greed, and the pull of dreams that has at its centre the haunting story of a young drifter—“the Englishman’s boy”—whose fate, ultimately, is a tragic one.
When expatriate Afrikaner Kristien Müller hears of her grandmother’s impending death, she ends her self-imposed exile in London and returns to the South Africa she thought she’d escaped. But irrevocable change is sweeping the land, and reality itself seems to be in flux as the country stages its first democratic elections. Kristien’s Ouma Kristina herself is dying because of the upheavals: a terrorist attack on her isolated mansion has terminally injured her. As Kristien keeps vigil by her grandmother’s sickbed, Ouma tells Kristien stories of nine generations of women in the family, stories in which myth and reality blur, in which legend and brute fact are confused, in which magic, treachery, farce, and heroism are the stuff of the day-to-day.
Imaginings of Sand is the passionate tale of a nation discovering itself and of the women who pioneered that discovery.
Graham Swift’s first novel since the highly acclaimed Ever After is a subtle yet deeply felt exploration of the ways in which friendship and love are shaped by the past and by fate. At its center is a group of men, friends since the Second World War, whose lives revolve around work, family, the racetrack, and their favorite pub. Now, the death of one of them, and the survivors’ task of driving their friend’s ashes from London to the seaside town where they’ll be scattered, compels them to take stock.
Through conversation and memory they trace the paths they have followed by choice and by accident: through war and its aftermath, through the dramas of their family lives and of their shifting relationships with one another. In brilliantly realized, richly humorous voices, Swift has created a narrative language that perfectly expresses not only the comforts of old habits and friendships but the profound emotional revelations this brief but far-reaching journey will bring them.
The Pope’s Rhinoceros is a vivid, antic, and picaresque novel spun around one of history’s most bizarre chapters: the sixteenth-century attempt to procure a rhinoceros as a bribe for Pope Leo X. In February 1516, a Portuguese ship sank off the coast of Italy. The Nostra Señora de Ajuda had sailed fourteen thousand miles from the Indian kingdom of Gujarat. Her mission: to bribe the “pleasure-loving Pope” into favoring expansionist Portugal over her rival Spain with the most exotic and least likely of gifts—a living rhinoceros. Moving from the herring colonies of the Baltic Sea to the West African rain forest, with a cast of characters including an order of reclusive monks and Rome’s corrupt cardinals, courtesans, ambassadors, and nobles, The Pope’s Rhinoceros is at once a fantastic adventure tale and a portrait of an age rushing headlong to its crisis.
Guinea John, mythical ancestor of Blackpeople in Trinidad, put two corncobs under his armpits and flew away from the scene of his enslavement, back to Africa. But his descendants, having eaten salt, were too heavy to fly and could not follow….One hundred years after official Emancipation, the diverse people of Trinidad—African, Asian, and European—still have not settled into the New World. Two men set out to free them from “old captivities” and to welcome them to their island homeland. Alford George, a teacher turned politician, works through the government. Bango Durity, a worker and activist, organizes populist rallies.
Around them swirl a cast of unforgettable men and women, each telling his own story in his own voice, each striving with passion and wit to make sense of life in a still-young country where the roles of enslaved and landowner still linger, but “the sky, the sea, every green leaf and tangle of vines sing freedom.”