Selected by employees and critics at The Times, and compiled by Andrew Donaldson
IN A STRANGE ROOM, Damon Galgut (Atlantic)
The Times of London described it as “absolutely brilliant”. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Galgut’s intense and acclaimed triptych – a collection, if you will, of three novellas – has drawn the inevitable comparisons with JM Coetzee, but Galgut’s really is a unique and original voice in South African fiction. In the stories here, a young man embarks upon a series of journeys, through Greece, India and Africa, in a search for love, identity and home.
CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF, Nelson Mandela (Macmillan)
Gathered from unpublished writings, diary entries and correspondence in a seemingly raw and unmediated manner, Conversations gave us the most moving and intimate portrait of the former president. Certainly, it refreshed parts that A Long Walk to Freedom failed to reach. Though Mandela took great care to mask his emotions and feelings, his letters to his wife and children reveal a loneliness and isolation that is utterly heartbreaking.
TELLING TIMES: WRITING AND LIVING, 1950 – 2010, Nadine Gordimer (Bloomsbury)
A companion of sorts to Life Times, an anthology of her best short fiction, this hefty volume gathers up a half-century of non-fiction and reveals Gordimer’s life as a moral activist, political visionary and literary icon. The range of this book is staggering, and stretches back to the dying days of colonial rule to the present-day conflicts of HIV/Aids, xenophobia and globalisation. Throughout all this, of course, was the scourge of racism and apartheid, and it is Gordimer’s brave and commendable engagement with the Nationalist government and the order it sought to impose upon us that particularly enthrall.
SUMMERTIME, JM Coetzee (Vintage)
Completing the trilogy of “memoirs” that began with Boy and Youth, Summertime is a story about a young biographer working on a book about a dead writer, John Coetzee, by focusing on the 1970s when the awkward and bookish Coetzee was finding his feet as a writer. So the biographer interviews a married woman with whom he had an affair, a favourite cousin, a dancer whose daughter was taught English by Coetzee, as well as other colleagues and friends. Praised as edgy, black, remorselessly human, Summertime was also humorous and offbeat, even wacky a portrait of the artist as outsider….read more