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Snowbound Han Kang

Snowbound Han Kang

Speaking at the Seoul International Book Fair, local heroine Han Kang, Man Booker International winner in 2016, turned her thoughts to the future. “I think I might write a book about books someday,” she said, projecting a volume of memories and thoughts about reading and the works that have been important to her. When she can’t read it has a drastic effect on her – she goes full Chucky, she revealed: “I feel unwholesome and evil. . . but after reading enough, I feel recharged and the parts of me that have crumbled come back together.” Her book of books will have to wait though ( for “a few years”) since she is currently at work on a fiction trilogy with the theme of snow and it is not going well: “It might be because I am struggling to write these days, but writing a novel is like going along a road that is very, very narrow – narrow like thread.” One hopes that, like the snow, Han Kang’s troubles will melt away.


Congratulations to Robin Robertson, Man Booker shortlisted last year, who has just won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for The Long Take. In doing so he becomes both the first Scot and the first poet to win the £25,000 Prize in its ten year history. Scott himself often mixed verse and prose and so would have appreciated Robinson’s noir version of the form set in post-war LA and San Francisco and with black-and-white movies flickering throughout. Robinson saw off a Man Booker-heavy shortlist which also included books by the double Man Booker winner Peter Carey, The Booker Prize and Golden Man Booker winner Michael Ondaatje, shortlistee Andrew Miller and longlistee Samantha Harvey. Robinson acknowledged that, like Scot, his path from poetry to fiction was one taken “by accident”. Though as Jim Naughtie, one of the judges (and chair of the 2009 Man Booker panel), would have acknowledged, there is nothing accidental about quality.


Another week, another award for Sally Rooney. Her 2018 Man Booker longlisted novel Normal People has just won the £10,000 Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award for a second novel. The book has already the Book of the Year award and the Costa Award and was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Rathbones Folio Prize too. There must be an award out there that has yet to celebrate the book but it is proving elusive. . .


As an indication the novelists can still be bona fide stars, a luxury travel company is including a meeting with the 2019 MBI shortlisted Juan Gabriel Vasquez as one of the highlights of its new tour of Colombia, the home country of the author of The Shape of the Ruins. The company, Luxury Gold, thinks Vasquez is an attraction as potent as the gold museum in Bogotá or the underground salt cathedral at Zipaquirá. It is good to know that tourist attractions can be living beings too.


A weird fact . . . an Australian racehorse from Perth has just topped $1 million Aussie dollars in lifetime earnings with an Ipswich Cup Day win in the Listed $175,0000 Eye Liner Stakes in Queensland. After three unplaced races this season the six-year-old came good. The gee-gee’s name? Man Booker.