Tag Archives: International Booker 2020 Longlist Reads

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld. Translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld Title: The Discomfort of Evening
Author: Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
Translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison
Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571349364
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translations
Pages: 282
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

What I thought to be a strange book when I started reading it, started growing on me way too soon. I see most reviewers calling it grim or gritty, but somehow it worked for me than most. It is a story of a family dislocated and destroyed by grief. It is the story of a family that hasn’t come to terms with their grief to even acknowledge it. The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is a book that is definitely in my top 5 of the International Booker 2020 Longlist.

The narrator is a child (the trope is clearly established). She is ten-year-old Jas and doesn’t know what to do as her world crumbles. Jas is not your usual run-of-the-mill kid. She is different in the sense that there is a lot more emotional maturity to this child – the awareness of what has happened and how to hold on to dear life to not let it spiral her life out of control.

I thought I would not take to this book because of its sometimes not-so-pleasant descriptions, but that didn’t happen at all. If anything, it just led to the understanding of what grief can do to you. Jas navigates adolescence with her family and the burden of guilt and anxiety, as she believes she prayed to God to save her rabbit and take her brother instead, and that is what happened.

There is so much that goes on in this book but slowly. Every layer of grief, redemption, and how to live in a world without someone lends to what I felt when I lost a loved one. Jas’s voice is strong, and she says what she must. The translation by Michele Hutchison brings out the sense of place, culture, and how pain lingers, and with it, comfort also steps in to be found in the unlikeliest of places.

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin. Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell.

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin Title: Little Eyes
Author: Samanta Schweblin
Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
ISBN: 978-1786077929
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translated Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Samanta Schweblin has done it again. This is her third book (translated in English) and the second novel and I do not know how will I write this review without gushing. Little Eyes is a strange book, or so it seems as you start reading it. After a point, as a reader, you realize that you could be living this life at some point in the future. Or maybe you already are, given the rate at which technology is surpassing us minute by minute. Little Eyes is a book about human connections as well, through technology, and how it makes us think, behave, or react.

They are called Kentukis. They aren’t robots, or toys, or not even phones. They are devices that connect you with other humans without really connecting you. The world is that of voyeurism, narcissism, and the need to not be lonely, and yet not quite maintain social relationships. These are available throughout the world and have a different way of operating.

The book is split into very short chapters and set across the world. The techno dystopian world that Schweblin builds is scary, intriguing, and to a large extent almost a prediction of things to come. The larger themes of the book are atomization of society, surveillance, lack of privacy, and how we have reached a stage that we will hanker after every new technology that there is.

I enjoyed the different narratives and the worlds I was being exposed to as I turned the pages. Schweblin’s writing packs a punch, and even in those short chapters, you are looking forward to more. Different characters only add to the overall appeal. There is also so much hope and redemption in the book that at times it felt strange to understand that it was written by the same person. Megan McDowell’s translation makes for the story to be only more interesting, thereby driving the narrative. A read that will stick with you for days. It has with me.