‘All That Man Is’ by David Szalay

All That Man Is book coverOn this year’s Man Booker short list is All That Man Is by David Szalay [London: Jonathan Cape, 2016]. Will it win? Answer shortly. One of Granta’s Best Young British novelists, Szalay is the author of three previous novels.  This one takes an interesting form.

In a series of nine chapters, the author looks at different men, at different ages from seventeen to seventy-three. If there is a common theme it is probably love and money. The canvas is the whole of Europe and the Mediterranean across which a suicidal billionaire sails. And sharp eyed readers will spot that the last character is the grandfather of the first.

My ‘favourite’ character in terms of the skill of the pen and ink portrait has to be Murray, the washed out Scot washed up on the Croatian Riviera. Few sad sacks have been described with such accuracy and such sympathy.

Szalay seems to be able to capture the mind and voice of each different character in a way that reminds me of Martin Amis although without the Amis cynicism. Hard to say if this is really a novel but, since I belong to the Marcel Duchamp school of taxonomy, if Szalay says it is a novel then it is a novel and, after all, it has made it onto this years’ short list. All That Man Is did justify its place on the long list; might just merit being on the short list but William Hill have it at 11/2, fifth out of six. About right, I think.

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