Thursday, September 16, 2021

My hero / Jim Crace by Daniel Hahn

 


Mystifying control … Jim Crace. Photograph: Matt Writtle



My hero: 

Jim Crace

 by Daniel Hahn

Jim Crace is a genius. I have read Harvest, which has just won the Impac prize, three times – and I still don’t know how he does it

Saturday 20 June 2015

I

’m currently on a translators’ residency, where one of our recurring dinnertime arguments is about whether genius exists, and if so, what it is. To some, it describes an ability, a gift, that is not merely above average but is somehow beyond comprehension; not just considerable skill, but inexplicable skill. If that definition holds, then Jim Crace, I think, is a genius. His 10th novel, Harvest – a small story about great change – has just won the 2015 Impac Dublin award; as one of the judges I’ve now read it three times, and I still don’t know how he does it. (Yes, I know “genius” sounds silly, but “magic” sounds even sillier.)

Crace announced in 2013 that Harvest would be his last novel. And what a way to go. It is an allegorical tale, but feels immediate and sharply detailed, not remote; it’s on a tiny scale (a week in a nameless English village community, once upon a time) but seems potent and important; and it creates a narrator – the isolated widower Walter Thirsk – with a slightly archaic but spellbinding voice. Thirsk is a private man confiding only to us, an extraordinary fusion of the vitality of oral storytelling with the fine craft of literary writing.

Those of us who don’t really believe in magic know that things like “voice” are formed of prosaic (if hugely complex) sums of syllables, breaths, stresses, vowels, commas; but I can’t think of a writer who manages these things with greater and more mystifying control. Harvest shows the rhythmic precision and poise you’d expect from poetry, but entirely without loftiness or pretension, and the story it tells is dark, pained, visceral, gripping.

The Impac award recognises, rather belatedly, those qualities we Crace fans have seen in his novels many times before. And the best news of all: his acceptance speech revealed that he’s changed his mind, and there is another book on the way.

THE GUARDIAN



2009
001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm

2010

017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

2011
079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill

2012

190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer

2015
2016


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