The Faber Podcast
In Times of Fading Light is Eugen Ruge's 2011 German Book Prize-winning debut novel. A multi-generational story spanning well over half a century (and drawing to a certain extent on Ruge's own family history), it charts the impact of wider historical events on the lives of the Umlitzer family, who once belonged to the Communist elite but whose socialist utopia has long-since vanished by the time the book opens in 2001. Through four generations Ruge presents different perspectives of life under different political regimes and the restrictions they imposed - we move from Fascism, to Communism and post-Communism, finishing with hyper-Capitalism. We witness characters' lives that still have their fair share of mundane chores, problems and domestic disputes, but which appear extraordinary set against backdrops that are hard now to imagine.
Set in a world that Barbara Kingsolver knows well - rural Tennessee - Flight Behaviour follows events in the life of Dellarobia Turnbow, a woman in her late twenties who married the wrong man too young, and who gave up her own plans on becoming pregnant aged 17. One day, on the way to her first tryst with a lover, she has an encounter which at first she can't explain - millions of monarch butterflies that have been thrown off course by the effects of climate change, setting the forest aglow like a living sea of fire. The changes that the butterflies bring to Dellarobia's life - her awakening to what is at stake and how she can channel her own flight behaviour - are at the core of this beautifully written novel, which is informed of course by Kingsolver's own knowledge and experience as a biologist and conservationist.
Marcel Theroux's new novel Strange Bodies takes the reader on a dizzying speculative journey that poses questions about identity, translation, consciousness, metamorphosis, technology, necromancy, resurrection, immortality, not to mention Frankenstein, Ray Kurzweil and some of Communist Russia's most prominent thinkers. The book fizzes with ideas, but ultimately leaves you pondering just what it is to be human. Here is Marcel Theroux in conversation with Faber Podcast host George Miller.
Louise Doughty was a guest on the Faber Podcast in 2010, when she discussed Whatever You Love. Her new novel, Apple Tree Yard, shares with its predecessor an interest in the working out of vengeance, but in an entirely different context. Yvonne Carmichael is a loyal wife, a good mother, and a successful geneticist but one poor decision - the wrong time, in the wrong place, with the wrong man - sees her life spiral out of control, climaxing in a murder trial at the Old Bailey. It's an intriguing narrative and here Louise Doughty tells us more, talking us through not just the novel but the many ideas contained within, including prejudice and sexual politics, the criminal justice system, and even the erotic potential of the Houses of Parliament.
The gun in the title of Emma Brockes' extraordinary memoir belonged to her mother Paula, who left South Africa as a young woman in the 1960s to build a new life for herself in England, away from the trauma of her earlier years. 'One day I will tell you the story of my life', she promised her ten-year-old daughter, 'and you will be amazed'. She didn't reveal details during her lifetime, but something piqued her journalist daughter's curiosity. Tracking down relatives on a different continent, some more reticent than others, Emma Brockes unravels an astonishing story of murder, molestation and abuse. Yet the book is far from misery memoir, packed as it is with quirky stories and tales of amazing resilience.
Like Nadeem Aslam's previous novel The Wasted Vigil, The Blind Man's Garden is set in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. But whereas its predecessor focused on foreign characters who came to Afghanistan from other nations, in the new book Aslam explores how a group of Pakistani characters experience the onset of the war on terror. The conflict is never far away in one of the most rapturously received novels so far this year.
Neil McKenna's rolicking and extremely colourful 'Fanny and Stella' is an account of the lives and loves of two effeminate cross-dressing young men whom Victorian society found every bit as shocking as Oscar Wilde (the subject of the author's previous award-winning biography). Like Wilde, Fanny and Stella found themselves on trial for the way they lived and, McKenna argues, like Wilde's trial a quarter of a century later, the trial of Fanny and Stella was a landmark in terms of attitudes to gender, sexuality and identity.
Orhan Pamuk was our first ever interviewee for the Faber Podcast, back in 2007 shortly after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He returns to talk to us about Silent House, a novel first published in Turkish some three decades ago, but only now available in English. The book - a family's story told by multiple narrators each with their own viewpoint - is set in the summer before the 1980 military coup in Turkey - a country divided in which political tensions spill over onto the streets on a daily basis.
Jilted on her wedding day at the last moment, still wearing her dress years later, among the ruins of her wedding breakfast ... But how did someone born into privilege, who seemed to have everything going for her, end up in such a desperate state of spinsterhood? In his new novel 'Havisham' Ronald Frame (who Alexander McCall Smith has called 'Scotland's finest contemporary writer') imagines the earlier life story of one of Dickens' best-known characters, Miss Catherine Havisham. Ronald Frame tells us more about it on the Faber Podcast.
Paul Auster may be best known for his novels - among them The New York Trilogy, The Brooklyn Follies, The Music of Chance and The Book of Illusions - but he first won acclaim with a memoir, his debut work The Invention of Solitude, which he wrote in the aftermath of his father’s sudden death. Now, thirty years later, Auster returns to memoir - though he says he prefers to think of the book as a collection of autobiographical fragments - with his latest book Winter Journal.