Best of 2013

The best book I read in 2013
The best book I read in 2013

I have been watching the best of 2013 lists with interest not least because, pedant as I am, 2013 only finished a few hours ago so it did not seem to comment till today. While it was unlikely a brilliant new book would be published in the last couple of weeks of the year, it was more than possible that I and other critics would not get round to reading some of these books till the end of the year. I am not going to comment too much on these many lists – you can see a fairly complete list of lists at Large-Hearted Boys’s site – except to say that I seem to be the only person who has not read Kevin Power’s Yellow Birds (I promise to do so sometime – really.) What did somewhat disappoint me (though not surprise me) is that most of the best of lists, even those in the posh newspapers, consisted almost entirely of books written originally in English. There were virtually no books in foreign languages (unlike similar lists in French, German, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish) and not all that many translated books. There were, of course, the usual honourable exceptions, namely those blogs/websites that do cover translations but they were few and far between. To my surprise, I read nineteen books last year published in 2013 though the best (see above left) was published in 2012. This book and seven of the books that I read that were published in 2013 are not (yet) available in English.

What the French liked in 2013
What the French liked in 2013

In other languages, the situation was different. It would seem that no great novels were published in Portuguese last year as most Portuguese bloggers opted for books translated mainly though not entirely from English. The French liked Pierre Lemaitre‘s Au revoir là-haut [Goodbye, Up There] which I did enjoy but do not consider to be a great work of literature. It will be published in English next year. The Spanish opted for Rafael ChirbesEn la Orilla [On the Shore] which I plan to read soon. Sadly, apart from his first novel, Chirbes has not been translated into English which is a great pity as he is a very fine writer. The Italians were like the Portuguese, opting more for foreign language books, though the new Mazzantini (Splendore), the new Ferrante (Storia di chi fugge e di chi resta [The Story of Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay]) and Martino Gozzi’s Mille volte mi ha portato sulle spalle [A Thousand Times, he Carried me on His Shoulders] about an Italian TV scriptwriter who wants to make a film about the love affair between Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt got some traction. Terézia Mora‘s Das Ungeheuer [The Monster] got the votes in Germany as did Clemens Meyer‘s Im Stein [In Stone]. Katy Derbyshire says that the Mora will be published in the US by HarperCollins/Ecco. Lizok has her favourite Russian books while Marcia Qualey has a superb post on Arab writers’ favourites.

I have no predictions for next year except to say I am looking forward to the new Murakami (which you can already read in Italian, Spanish and other languages). Flavorwire has its 15 Most Anticipated Books of 2014 though I cannot imagine I will read many of them and other such lists have not inspired me. Of course, what I am looking forward to is a new book by an author I have not read of which is original and inspiring. Sadly, it is probable that it won’t be written or even be available in English. Have a Happy New Year.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Tony

    Of those of my end-of-year choices which came out last year, I’d recommend Jón Kalman Stefánsson’s ‘The Sorrow of Angels’ and Elena Ferrante’s ‘The Story of a New Name’ – both great books. Other good ones include the second by Knausgaard and Marías’ ‘The Infatuations’, Birgit Vanderbeek’s ‘The Mussel Feast’, Viola Di Grado’s ‘70% Acrylic, 30% Wool’, Mircea Cărtărescu’s ‘Blinding’… The list goes on 😉

    1. tmn

      Good list. I have several of the Stefánssons in German but have yet to get around to reading them. Same for Ferrante in Italian. I read the Marias when it came out in Spanish so I consider it a 2011 book. I read the Cărtărescu in French a few years ago. I have the others and plan to read them sometime.

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