As the colder weather closes in there's nothing better than curling up in your best knitwear with a good book! So we've put together a selection of Autumn Reads from our World Bookshelf collection for you to get stuck into...
The November Boy
Recommended by Theodora Danek, Writers in Translation Programme Manager
Bernat Manciet’s appropriately titled The November Boy (Francis Boutle Publishers) is the perfect book for autumn. Translated from Occitan by James Thomas, this short modernist novella is set on the heath of the Grandes Landes in 1920s rural southern France. The narrator, a young man suffering from tuberculosis, recounts the slow decline of his once wealthy family, the isolation of life on the heath, and his relationship with the people he meets – among them the mysterious November Boy. This is a highly atmospheric, occasionally inscrutable book that – rightly or wrongly – reminded me of some of André Gide’s work. I found its complex portrayal of homoerotic feelings and its charged, symbolic language beguiling, and expect I will be rereading it regularly in the years to come.
The World Record
Recommended by Cat Lucas, Writers at Risk Programme Manager
The World Record (Bloodaxe Books), edited by Neil Astley and Anna Selby, is a remarkable collection of global poetry, including poems from over 200 nations who took part in the Olympics back in 2012, from Azerbaijan to Kiribati, from Micronesia to Suriname. It's a book I can go back to again and again, always to discover something new. It also brings back fond memories of a summer spent on London's Southbank at the unforgettable Poetry Parnassus.
See You Tomorrow
Recommended by Hannah Trevarthen, Events and Development Manager
My autumn read is Tore Renberg's See You Tomorrow (Arcadia Books), translated by Sean Kinsella. Turning the Nordic Noir thriller on its head, this polyvocal novel is filled with dark comedy and follows a memorable cast of characters over a three-day period one September as their actions reach a disturbing crescendo. Renberg has a knack for sharp, rhythmic dialogue and the novel tackles teenage infatuation, secrets, lies and the tragedy of violence with humour and uncomfortable realism. Renberg’s focus on the personal stories of these 11 characters brings to life the universal; the struggle with debt, the loneliness of modern life, love and the internal conflict of liking Coldplay.
Recommended by Alice Frecknall, Administrative Assistant
When riffling through the World Bookshelf, on more than one occasion I’ve found myself distractedly drawn to the pages of Yang Lian’s Narrative Poem, presented in a beautiful Chinese-English dual publication by Bloodaxe Books. So this autumn I’m looking forward to giving it the proper time and attention it deserves. Translated from the Chinese original by Brian Holton, Narrative Poem takes its starting point from a series of family photographs. From the day of Yang Lian's birth through to the time he spent undergoing ‘re-education through labour’ in the mid-1970s, the poems move back and forth through time. From what I’ve read so far, this visual and extremely personal foundation to the book makes for some incredibly vivid and moving writing.
Go Went Gone
Recommended by Antonia Byatt, Interim Director
I’m looking forward to reading Jenny Erpenbeck’s new novel Go Went Gone, translated by Susan Bernofsky. She’s a wonderful writer; her previous novel The End of Days is a brilliantly constructed novel which traces the history of 20th century Germany through a series of shorter linked stories. She traces the chance of human existence alongside the terrible certainty of what we know happened. Go Went Gone sounds as though it carries on her exploration of Europe. It deals with the meeting of the old and new in contemporary Germany. A retired university professor comes across a group of hunger-striking African asylum seekers and begins to re-examine his own sense of belonging in the city. Jenny Erpenbeck’s lucid intelligence should give me a powerful view of a central issue for our times.
The World Bookshelf is home to over 200 brilliant books from around the globe which English PEN has supported through its Writers in Translation programme. This is a unique showcase of the most exciting contemporary literature available in English translation and is essential reading for everyone who cares about international writing.