Annal: 2004 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Results of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in the year 2004.

Book:This Blinding Absence of Light

This Blinding Absence of Light: A Novel

Tahar Ben Jelloun, Linda Coverdale

Ben Jelloun crafts a horrific real-life narrative into fiction to tell the appalling story of the desert concentration camps in which King Hassan II of Morocco held his political enemies under the most harrowing conditions. Not until September 1991, under international pressure , was Hassan’s regime forced to open these desert hellholes. A handful of survivors—livng cadavers who had shrunk by over a foot in height—emerged from the six-by-three-foot cells in which they had been held underground for decades.

Working closely with one of the survivors, Ben Jelloun eschewed the traditional novel format and wrote the book in the simplest of language, reaching always for the most basic of words, the most correct descriptions. The result is a shocking novel that explores both the limitlessness of inhumanity and the impossible endurance of the human will.

Book:Any Human Heart

Any Human Heart: A Novel

William Boyd

Here is the “riotous and disorganized reality” of Mountstuart’s eighty-five years in all their extraordinary, tragic and humorous aspects. The journals begin with his boyhood in Montevideo, Uruguay; then move to Oxford in the 1920s and the publication of his first book; then on to Paris (where he meets Joyce, Picasso, Hemingway, et al.) and to Spain where he covers the civil war. During World War II, we see him as an agent for Naval Intelligence, becoming embroiled in a murder scandal that involves the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The postwar years bring him to New York as an art dealer in the world of 1950s abstract expressionism, then on to West Africa, to London (where he has a run-in with the Baader-Meinhof Gang) and, finally, to France where, in his old age, he acquires a measure of hard-won serenity.

A moving, ambitious and richly conceived novel that summons up the heroics and follies of twentieth-century life.

Book:Balthasar's Odyssey

Balthasar's Odyssey: A Novel

Amin Maalouf

Is the world coming to an end? What if, according to the Book of Revelations, next year—the year of the Beast—the Anti-christ will appear and the Apocalypse will come to pass as long predicted?

Amin Maalouf creates an ambitious tale of high adventure set at the eve of that fateful year. Balthasar Embriaco, a Genoese merchant and antique dealer living in the Levant, is thrown by chance into a quest to find a mysterious book entitled The Hundredth Name, which according to legend contains the most secret name of God. (In the Koran there are ninety-nine names. Does the hundredth even exist?) Merely to know that hundredth name, Balthasar is convinced, is the key to salvation, both for himself and the human race.

So he embarks on a tumultuous journey that will take him across the breadth of the civilized world—making his way to…[more]

Book:The Book of Illusions

The Book of Illusions: A Novel

Paul Auster

Six months after losing his wife and two young sons in an airplane crash, Vermont professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours mired in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity. Then, watching television one night, he stumbles upon a clip from a lost silent film by comedian Hector Mann. Zimmer’s interest is piqued, and he soon finds himself embarking on a journey around the world to research a book on this mysterious figure, who vanished from sight in 1929 and has been presumed dead for sixty years.

When the book is published the following year, a letter turns up in Zimmer’s mailbox bearing a return address from a small town in New Mexico-supposedly written by Hector’s wife. “Hector has read your book and would like to meet you. Are you interested in paying us a visit?” Is the letter a hoax, or is Hector Mann still alive? Torn between doubt and belief, Zimmer hesitates, until one night a strange woman appears on his doorstep and makes the decision for him, changing his life forever. …[more]

Book:Caramelo

Caramelo: A Novel

Sandra Cisneros

Lala Reyes’ grandmother is descended from a family of renowned rebozo, or shawl, makers. The striped caramelo rebozo is the most beautiful of all, and the one that makes its way, like the family history it has come to represent, into Lala’s possession. The novel opens with the Reyes’ annual car trip–a caravan overflowing with children, laughter, and quarrels–from Chicago to “the other side”: Mexico City. It is there, each year, that Lala hears her family’s stories, separating the truth from the “healthy lies” that have ricocheted from one generation to the next. We travel from the Mexico City that was the “Paris of the New World” to the music-filled streets of Chicago at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties–and, finally, to Lala’s own difficult adolescence in the not-quite-promised land of San Antonio, Texas.

Caramelo is a romantic tale of homelands, sometimes real, sometimes imagined. Vivid, funny, intimate, historical, it is a brilliant work destined to become a classic: a major new novel from one of our country’s most beloved storytellers.

Book:Earth and Ashes

Earth and Ashes: A Novel

Atiq Rahimi, Erdag M. Göknar

When the Soviet army arrives in Afghanistan, the elderly Dastaguir witnesses the destruction of his village and the death of his clan. His young grandson Yassin, deaf from the sounds of the bombing, is one of the few survivors. The two set out through an unforgiving landscape, searching for the coal mine where Murad, the old man’s son and the boy’s father, works. They reach their destination only to learn that they must wait and rely for help on all that remains to them: a box of chewing tobacco, some unripe apples, and the kindness of strangers.

Haunting in its spareness, Earth and Ashes is a tale of devastating loss, but also of human perseverance in the face of madness and war.

Book:Family Matters

Family Matters: A Novel

Rohinton Mistry

Rohinton Mistry’s enthralling novel is at once a domestic drama and an intently observed portrait of present-day Bombay in all its vitality and corruption. At the age of seventy-nine, Nariman Vakeel, already suffering from Parkinson’s disease, breaks an ankle and finds himself wholly dependent on his family. His step-children, Coomy and Jal, have a spacious apartment (in the inaptly named Chateau Felicity), but are too squeamish and resentful to tend to his physical needs.

Nariman must now turn to his younger daughter, Roxana, her husband, Yezad, and their two sons, who share a small, crowded home. Their decision will test not only their material resources but, in surprising ways, all their tolerance, compassion, integrity, and faith. Sweeping and intimate, tragic and mirthful, Family Matters is a work of enormous emotional power.

Book:House of Day, House of Night

House of Day, House of Night

Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Nowa Ruda is a small town in Silesia, an area that has been a part of Poland, Germany, and the former Czechoslovakia in the past. When the narrator moves into the area, she and discovers everyone-and everything-has its own story. With the help of Marta, her enigmatic neighbor, the narrator accumulates these stories, tracing the history of Nowa Ruda from the founding of the town to the lives of its saints, from the caller who wins the radio quiz every day to the tale of the man who causes international tension when he dies on the border, one leg on the Polish side, the other on the Czech side. Each of the stories represents a brick and they interlock to reveal the immense monument that is the town. What emerges is the message that the history of any place—no matter how humble—is limitless, that by describing or digging at the roots of a life, a house, or a neighborhood, one can see all the connections, not only with one’s self and one’s dreams but also with all of the universe. …[more]

Book:Middlesex

Middlesex

Jeffrey Eugenides

In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls’ school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry blond classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them—along with Callie’s failure to develop—leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.

The explanation for this shocking state of affairs takes us out of suburbia—back before the Detroit race riots of 1967, before the rise of the Motor City and Prohibition, to 1922, when the Turks sacked Smyrna and Callie’s grandparents fled for their lives. Back to a tiny village in Asia Minor where two lovers, and one rare genetic mutation, set in motion the metamorphosis that will turn Callie into a being both mythical and perfectly real: a hermaphrodite.

Book:The White Family

The White Family

Maggie Gee

This ambitious, groundbreaking novel takes on the taboo subject of racial hatred as it looks for the roots of violence within the family and within British society.

The Whites are an ordinary British family. Alfred White, a London park keeper, still rules his home with fierce conviction and inarticulate tenderness. May, his clever, passive wife loves Alfred but conspires against him. Their three children are no longer close; the elder son has left for America and the youngest son is a virulent racist. The daughter is involved in an interracial relationship with a black social worker. When the father’s sudden illlness forces the children to come together, their deep fears and prejudices come to the surface, raising issues about kinship, trust, and hatred.

Maggie Gee expertly illustrates the tensions and prevailing social problems of modern day England in this fascinating novel.

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