¿Qué libro leyeron en la navidad pasada, qué libro leerán esta navidad y qué libro esperan leer en la navidad futrura? Cual extraño "Cuento de Navidad" de Dickens, The Guardian le pregunta a una serie de estupendos escritores (la lista es impresionante e incluye a autores como Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Monica Alí, JG Ballard, John Banville, Julian Barnes, William Boyd, AS Byatt, Peter Carey, Jonathan Coe, Dave Eggers, Richard Ford, Jonathan Frazen, Seamus Heaney, Alan Hollinghurst, Naomi Klein, David Lodge, Colm Tóibín,Sarah Waters, etc.) por sus lecturas navideñas. Les dejo tres ejemplos:
Probably the two most welcome gifts of all my Christmases past were the capacious hardcover Peanuts Treasury (Ravette Publishing), in 1969, and the equally capacious Peanuts Classics in 1970 (inscribed by my mother: "You love Peanuts the way I love you"). To anyone else who ever loved Peanuts - or who simply loves great biography - I recommend, for our Christmas present, David Michaelis's deftly written, intellectually exhilarating new biography Schulz and Peanuts (HarperCollins US). And to anyone who can't locate the original great collections, I recommend the first 12 volumes of the complete edition that Fantagraphics Books will be releasing for many Christmases to come.
Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory (Penguin) is one of the great autobiographies, with possibly one of the most beguiling and thought-provoking opening pages ever. As hypersensitive to the nuances of his privileged upbringing in pre-revolutionary Russia as he is to the strictures of his en- forced exile in Europe afterwards, Nabokov tells his extraordinary story in a prose of unrivalled lyricism and sumptuousness.
Peter Pist'anek's novel Rivers of Babylon (Garnett Press) is an astonishing find. Brilliantly translated from Slovak by Peter Petro, this story of a small-town loser turned enterprising bravura gangster in post-communist Slovakia is fuelled with formidable energy and ice-cool satire. It displays a fierce black humour that is both ruthless and exhilarating.
I've been lucky enough to read Hanif Kureishi's superb new novel Something to Tell You (Faber). Not available until March, it possesses all of Kureishi's soulful mordancy and wry, demotic humour. No one else casts such a shrewd and gimlet eye on contemporary life. And I'm hugely looking forward to James Meek's new novel We Are Now Beginning Our Descent (Canongate), out in February.
The best book I have read this year is Emerson: The Mind on Fire by Robert D Richardson Jr (University of California Press), a superb biography of the great American philosopher and prose-poet. Richardson's scholarship is exhaustive, he writes a straightforward yet mesmeric prose, and his gift for tracing the development of Emerson's mind through apposite quotation is uncanny. This is, simply, a great book.
Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader (Profile) is an entrancing little fairy tale for grown-ups. The conceit of it is that the Queen acquires an obsessive taste for fiction, so that she comes to neglect her royal duties, with drastic consequences. Despite the characteristic lightness of tone, Bennett is about serious business here, reminding us, who these days sorely need reminding, of the enduring pleasure and power of imaginative literature.
The book I am most looking forward to is an impossibility. WG Sebald died in a car crash in 2001 at the tragically early age of 57. He had done great things - The Emigrants (Vintage), Austerlitz (Penguin) - and would surely have done greater. What I want is Sebald's next novel, and the fact that I cannot have it makes the wanting no less keen.