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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Like A Fading Shadow (2017) by Antono Munoz Molina


Book Review
Like A Fading Shadow (2017)
 by Antonio Munoz Molina

   The Man Booker International Prize 2018 (it's every two years) announced the long list on March 12th.  The shortlist comes out April 12th.  The long list consists of the following titles:

• Laurent Binet (France), Sam Taylor, The 7th Function of Language (Harvill Secker)
• Javier Cercas (Spain), Frank Wynne, The Impostor (MacLehose Press)
• Virginie Despentes (France), Frank Wynne, Vernon Subutex 1 (MacLehose Press)
• Jenny Erpenbeck (Germany), Susan Bernofsky, Go, Went, Gone (Portobello Books)
• Han Kang (South Korea), Deborah Smith, The White Book (Portobello Books)
• Ariana Harwicz (Argentina), Sarah Moses & Carolina Orloff, Die, My Love (Charco Press)
• László Krasznahorkai (Hungary), John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes, The World Goes On (Tuskar Rock Press)
• Antonio Muñoz Molina (Spain), Camilo A. Ramirez, Like a Fading Shadow (Tuskar Rock Press)
• Christoph Ransmayr (Austria), Simon Pare, The Flying Mountain (Seagull Books)
• Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq), Jonathan Wright, Frankenstein in Baghdad (Oneworld)
• Olga Tokarczuk (Poland), Jennifer Croft, Flights (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
• Wu Ming-Yi (Taiwan, China), Darryl Sterk, The Stolen Bicycle (Text Publishing)
• Gabriela Ybarra (Spain), Natasha Wimmer, The Dinner Guest (Harvill Secker)

     The 1001 Books list published it's last update in 2012, with no new edition of the horizon.  It seems like the hardest part of identifying books going forward is squaring the need to find books from non-English speaking authors that have 1) been translated within a year or two of the original publication date and 2) been read in English.  The Man Booker International Prize seems like a good source for potential selections.  Looking at the long list  Binet's The Seventh Function of Language stands out as a book that was actually read by a decent sized audience.  Korean Han Kang is a prior winner of this prize, for The Vegetarian

   The Man Booker International Prize draws from English publishers, so many of the long listed books haven't been published in the United States just yet.  One exception is Like a Fading Shadow by Spanish author Antonio Munoz Molina, which has already been published in the US by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.   

  I wasn't overwhelmed with Like A Fading Shadow, which combines a retracing of the steps of Martin Luther King Jr. assassin James Earl Ray in Lisbon, when he was on the run after the King assisination with the recollection of the "author" about his experience in Lisbon in the 1980's, before his break-out as a succesful writer of literary fiction.   It's a familiar kind of meta-fiction, combing historical fiction with the vagaries of the process of writing fiction.  Like every protagonist of European fiction in the past century, the author figure of Like A Fading Shadow does little but wander around a European city, thinking about life. 

  The portions focusing on the peregrinations of James Earl Ray are more interesting, but cover territory similar to the territory explored by Don DeLillo via John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra.  At the same time, the idea of a non-American author tackling a discrete subject in American history (the assassination of Martin Luther King) is certainly novel.   I haven't been able to round up many more of these books, but I've got my eyes peeled for the Han Kang joint.

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