Doctor and activist

Relevance of Books

8 September 2022

Like a lot of people I do not read as many books as I should, but it seems that they have not lost their relevance.  We are now well past Orwell’s 1984 and have facial recognition software pictures taken when we visit nursing homes and all our conversations and email analysed by algorithms.

Three recent articles came to my attention: 

  1. The Booker Prize, a prestigious prize for novels, which used to be confined to the British Commonwealth but is now open to any writing in English, has satire as its major theme this year.  Below is a NY Times article, reprinted in the SMH.  
  2. The US has been banning books for a while (add an extra w to make www)

  1. And now China has gaoled the writers of a children’s book about sheep defending themselves from wolves as this is said to be a political analogy for the actions of the Communist Party in Hong Kong.  See link below

Satire dominates in a diverse Booker Prize shortlist

Alexandra Alter The New York Times

A barbed political satire about the fall of an African dictator, told from the perspective of talking animals. A mordantly comic novel about the inescapable horrors of racism in America. A bleak but slyly funny story that explores the trauma of Sri Lanka’s civil wars.

These potent satirical novels are among the six finalists for the Booker Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards.

This year’s shortlisted novels include authors from five countries and four continents, and encompass a diverse range of prose styles and subject matters, from quiet, introspective literary fiction to fantasy and magical realism.

Several of the novels deploy humour, myth and allegory to tackle painful chapters of history. In Glory, Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo obliquely tackles the downfall of autocrat Robert Mugabe, through a narrative featuring a cast of animals — horses, donkeys, dogs, goats, chickens and a crocodile.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, a mythic story by Sri Lankan novelist Shehan Karunatilaka, follows a photographer who wakes up dead in an underworld where he encounters victims of political violence. And in his novel The Trees, Percival Everett lampoons the stain of racism in America with a story about a pair of black detectives who investigate a series of murders that echo the lynching of Emmett Till.

‘‘One of the great powers of language is to make you laugh, even in the middle of terrible things,’’ Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum and chair of this year’s judges, said on Tuesday.

Other authors on the shortlist are Irish writer Claire Keegan, for Small Things Like These, about the unmarried women who suffered in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries; English fantasy writer Alan Garner, for Treacle Walker, a dreamlike story about a boy who has magical visions; and American novelist Elizabeth Strout for Oh William!, about a woman who helps her ex-husband investigate his troubled family history.

Founded in 1969, the Booker Prize is one of the most coveted literary prizes in the world. The winner, who will receive a prize of £50,000 ($A86,000), will be announced on October 17.

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans

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