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And the winner (should be) ...

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William Crawley | 12:12 UK time, Tuesday, 16 October 2007

ANIMAL-260.jpgIan Sansom, the BBC's Writer in Residence at Queen's University, chaired a very lively eve-of-the-Booker-Prize event last night in the University's Harty Room. I was on the panel championing Animal's People by Indra Sinha. This is Indra Sinha's second novel and explores the impact of a Bhopal-like chemical tragedy on the life of a young Indian man and those around him. Animal, the central character, is a remarkable creation -- the embodiment of the central question of traditional theodicy.

If I was foolish enough to try to sum up the book by means of a clichéd literary comparison (and, yes, I am indeed that foolish), I'd say: Bleak House meets The Naked Lunch. The book is filthy -- appropriately so, given the context -- and, as a New York Times critic has put it, "scabrously funny". Animal's People is careful not to force philosophical questions on the reader; but those questions nevertheless angle their way into your encounter with Animal on most pages. What does it mean to be "human"? What is "justice"? And how is it possible to maintain faith in a God who seems absent when he is most needed? I wish Indra Sinha well at tonight's awards ceremony. The other contenders are here. The favourite is still Lloyd Jones for his wonderful novel Mister Pip -- and it is absolutely wonderful. I wouldn't be surprised if Mister Pip carries off the £50,000 prize, and I wouldn't be at all disappointed. Nor would I be surprised if Anne Enright wins for The Gathering, which is a work of mesmerizing poetic beauty. If there is any literary justice in the universe, one of those three books will win. (Not that I'd want to overstate the point.) What about Ian McEwan, I hear you ask? I enjoyed On Chesil Beach, and considered it (alongside The Gathering) a strong contender some weeks ago. But that was before I had encountered the beguilingly unforgettable Mister Pip and the filthy-mouthed Animal and his people.


  • 1.
  • At 03:15 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Margaret M-holywood wrote:

I agree with your choice, Will. Animal's People is quite unique amongst this shortlist. Good luck to Indra.

  • 2.
  • At 06:16 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

This is so full of metaphors and irony it should win on the strengths of that alone if nothing else. Where are all the people who used to comment here that metaphors were the best way to describe reality? A human becoming an animal and the title. Where more appropriate than in India where as it were the cows own the people. In much of the Western world it is a crime for a dog, cat or other pet to injure or kill a human, its owner civilly, even criminally liable. In India it's the other way around, it's the animals which rule. All that was missing was a reference to George Orwell who was also born in India, perhaps Sinha is Orwell reincarnated. And how fitting in a place where there is widespread belief that people come back from the dead reborn as animals. It also provokes the question which never seems to be asked, why are India's and China's economies growing so quickly now, why do they attract so much capital investment from the outside. The simple answer, human life there is worthless, even an animal's life is worth more. The subtitle on the subcontinent should have been "The World Turned Upside Down...Derry Down."

Where are all the people who used to comment here that metaphors were the best way to describe reality?


Sorry but were you looking for me?

I'm not going to read "Animal's People" but I can recommend "Metaphors We live By" by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.


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