Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence [London: Faber & Faber, 2010, translated by Maureen Freely] is another of his intense novels which bring out the contrast between Western and more traditional Turkish values. Like Snow, it is a story of a doomed love affair that, in this case, is played out in the Istanbul of the last quarter of the 20th century.
Le Carré is a master of his craft and brings back fascinating glimpses of George Smiley in A Legacy of Spies [London: Viking, 2017], narrated by his loyal lieutenant, Peter Guillam, now retired and living in his native Brittany but summoned, as only members of the Secret Intelligence Service can be, to answer for innocent blood spilt in that classic Cold War thriller, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.
I liked it so much that I sat down and straightaway reread Autumn by Ali Smith [London: Penguin, 2017]. Short-listed for this year’s Man Booker, what’s not to like about it? Apart from Smith’s gift for language, patterning, sound games, literary allusions (two in the first two lines) and alliterations, reminding and moving to and fro with such a light touch, the front cover of my copy has a wonderful David Hockney and the inside back cover is illustrated by that fascinating yet too little known female British Pop artist, Pauline Boty. If the Tate do a Boty retrospective I hope Ali Smith will be invited to open it. She also deserves credit for the first ‘Brexit’ novel and, had I been revising my dissertation on the influence of Margaret Thatcher on contemporary fiction, I would need to include this quotation.
The short list has been announced and it is the usual mixture of old hands and debut writers. I find it harder this year to pick the winner.
The first of the post-war World Fairs was held in Brussels in 1958: I remember it well. Jonathan Coe captures the flavour of it in his recent Expo 58 [London: Viking, 2014]. One of my own tweed designs was on show in the British Pavilion and for no better reason than that I travelled over to see it and to gaze in awe at the many international stands dominated by those of the USA and the USSR, rivals in everything from industry to ideology. What did Britain hope to gain from its participation? Coe sums up where Britain was starting from.