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This Mournable Body
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Booker Prize for Fiction > 2020 Booker Shortlist: This Mournable Body

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message 1: by Trevor (last edited Jul 27, 2020 04:25PM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1843 comments Mod
This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

This Mournable Body, by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Please remember to read the Booker Folder Rules and post accordingly


message 2: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
I was very much looking forward to this, as a fan of Nervous Conditions. Then many people read it and found it somehow lacking, so I never got round to actually even getting a copy. Guess I will now, and I'll make up my own mind. I think I'll reread Nervous Conditions again first, just to make sure I am up to snuff.

Heh, I don't know when I think I'll find the time for all this reading. Maybe I can hide in a closet somewhere.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments I had investigated it earlier in the year but like you Ella was put off by reviews from people I trust. I don't know the Nervous Conditions at all - sounds like it may be necessary to read this and The Book of Not first?


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments This Mournable Body is £2.99 on Kindle currently


Suzanne Whatley | 144 comments I remember studying Nervous Conditions as part of my English lit degree at uni - I think I liked it at the time but couldn’t tell you anything about it! I’m hoping I don’t have to reread it or read the 2nd one to enjoy this one. Don’t think I could find the time for that.


message 6: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
Gumble's Yard wrote: "I had investigated it earlier in the year but like you Ella was put off by reviews from people I trust. I don't know the Nervous Conditions at all - sounds like it may be necessary to read this and..."

I don't know that you have to read both of those, GY. I do think it may help to read Nervous Conditions, which is a slim book with weighty topics. You could get through it in a day, I feel sure. However, I can't help but notice that Nervous Conditions came out in the 1980s, so the idea that you need to read anything but this may simply be wrong. It's not called a sequel, but a "follow-up" does seem to feature in several reviews. Not sure. Either way, I recommend Nervous Conditions just b/c it's a good read.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments I think its the same characters but not sure - I have ordered them all anyway


John Banks | 164 comments Gumble's Yard wrote: "I think its the same characters but not sure - I have ordered them all anyway"

Yup I plan to order them all as well.


Robert | 2180 comments I read Nervous Conditions many years ago and I liked it - looking forward to this

Actually I'm looking forward to them all bar one


message 10: by WndyJW (new) - added it

WndyJW | 5935 comments This sounds interesting.


message 11: by Paul (last edited Jul 28, 2020 02:13AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10025 comments If people are wondering about the title, it comes from a Teju Cole essay in the New Yorker, Unmournable Bodies in response to the Charlie Hebdo killings (which he condemns, while not defending the magazine)

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cul...

The scale, intensity, and manner of the solidarity that we are seeing for the victims of the Paris killings, encouraging as it may be, indicates how easy it is in Western societies to focus on radical Islamism as the real, or the only, enemy. This focus is part of the consensus about mournable bodies, and it often keeps us from paying proper attention to other, ongoing, instances of horrific carnage around the world: abductions and killings in Mexico, hundreds of children (and more than a dozen journalists) killed in Gaza by Israel last year, internecine massacres in the Central African Republic, and so on. And, even when we rightly condemn criminals who claim to act in the name of Islam, little of our grief is extended to the numerous Muslim victims of their attacks, whether in Yemen or Nigeria—in both of which there were deadly massacres this week—or in Saudi Arabia, where, among many violations of human rights, the punishment for journalists who “insult Islam” is flogging. We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world, but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, and more worthy of commemoration, than others.

From the author of this:

I extrapolated that question to living bodies. Basically I asked the question whether, if we could mourn the circumstance of certain living bodies we might not create a better world. At the same time those living bodies also need to mourn themselves in order to begin to heal and move forward.

https://therumpus.net/2018/08/the-rum...


message 12: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3476 comments Mod
This one should be the first from my order to arrive, which means I'll be tempted to start with it even though I have not read the earlier books in the series. Will have to assume that anything that is nominated for the Booker should work stand alone as well as in the series.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments MisterHobgoblin wrote: "This Mournable Body does have one particularly striking (or irritating?) feature in its second person narration. I have never loved this as a technique. It usually feels forced and self-conscious. ...."

You would say that.

See it doesn't even work for replies :o)

More seriously - very nice review.


message 14: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
I'm weird. I like second person narration - if it's done so well that it doesn't make me want to scream. But there's something sort of awesome about "being in the book" and if the book talks directly to me, that's easier.


message 15: by Neil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Neil | 2035 comments I am about one third through this. Something about it is reminding me of my (limited) experience of Ottessa Moshfegh. Does that make sense to anyone who has read it?


message 16: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3476 comments Mod
My copy has arrived, so I'll start it later, but probably won't have much reading time tonight.


Laura (lauramulcahy) | 61 comments I'm curious to see how the panel will approach this one. Nervous Conditions is a highly important work in the literary canon (it was also a required text in one of my college courses), and BBC listed it as one of the books that changed the world.

I'm thinking back to last year with Atwood's win. If I recall correctly (I can't find the quote now, but I remember it caused a stir), one of the judges said that Atwood's legacy, and the legacy of The Handmaid's Tale, played a part in their judgement- and her subsequent win.

Personally, after finishing up reading this, I don't think This Mournable Body is going to win, but I am curious if this year's panel is going to be as concerned with legacy as last year's panel was. If so, might that be enough to land this on the shortlist?


message 18: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Banks | 164 comments Just received notification from local library this one is ready for me to collect. Looking forward to the read but last few days been so flat out with work haven’t got much reading in.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments Laura wrote: "I'm curious to see how the panel will approach this one. Nervous Conditions is a highly important work in the literary canon (it was also a required text in one of my college courses), and BBC list..."

Very interesting speculation Laura. I feel last year (and the little inside info I picked up at the award dinner supports this) that it was the Chair who really forced the Atwood issue last year. And I can see the same this year - as Margaret Busby has the author as one of her original "Daughters of Africa".

I think the other influences last year though which is absent this year is the hype - I think the judges got caught up in the hype around the book and particularly with them getting a advanced copy and being signed to secrecy etc and it completely influenced their views.


MisterHobgoblin Gumble's Yard wrote: "I think the judges got caught up in the hype around [The Testaments] and particularly with them getting a advanced copy and being signed to secrecy etc and it completely influenced their views."

I am a conspiracy theorist and I think the new rules permit me to say this once per thread - I am convinced that the Booker Prize Foundation was contractually obliged to award The Testaments the prize in return for the publisher submitting it. And I think the panel rebelled, causing the split prize.


Suzanne Whatley | 144 comments Interesting point Laura. I wonder does anyone think that an author’s legacy should be considered? I don’t, but then I imagine it’s very difficult for it to not have at least some unintentional influence.


message 22: by Ella (last edited Jul 30, 2020 05:58AM) (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
MisterHobgoblin wrote: "Gumble's Yard wrote: "I think the judges got caught up in the hype around [The Testaments] and particularly with them getting a advanced copy and being signed to secrecy etc and it completely influ..."

LOL, MHG! Thanks for reading Trevor's post.

I dunno Margaret Busby personally. I am a great fan of her work, as I've said many times (Read her books!) But I have a sneaking suspicion her personal entitlement issues may not be quite so grand. I don't know why I think that.

Maybe we should move this elsewhere. We've got bits and pieces in the Anne Tyler thread (similar comments about life's work, from me, at least) and here, and there are similar ones about Mantel...

I started a forum for controversial topics a while back - scroll down. "Talking points" https://www.goodreads.com/topic/group...

Here: I started a thread: "The Great Booker Conspiracy" Then I asked, "Is there one?" Talk away here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 24: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1843 comments Mod
As was importantly clarified in the Booker longlist thread where this was posted, she was arrested in Zimbabwe for participation in protests.


message 25: by Neil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Neil | 2035 comments I just finished this. Whilst I can clearly see it is dealing with important topics, I couldn't settle to the style and struggled with it. I find myself conflicted in my thoughts about it.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments I am currently listening to the Booker longlist podcast with three of the judges. Both Sissay and Busby met the author 30 or so years ago around the time of her first book, but both remarked strongly that there is no need to read that book (it was also clear that Sissay only became aware recently it was the third of a trilogy).


message 27: by Neil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Neil | 2035 comments There are places in the book where it feels (as someone who not read either of the others) that it is referring back to events that are described in the first two books, but it never feels like you are missing out by having not read the first two - you can normally read between the lines, although I clearly don't know how much I got right/wrong or never realised.


message 28: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3476 comments Mod
I have just finished this one and will review it when my thoughts have settled. The second half impressed me more than the first, and I can easily see why it made the list.


message 29: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam | 1713 comments I have finished the book and the last two chapters save the book somewhat but I felt the second section was tedious. There is cultural and feminist value here, but I did not like the style. I feel an author needs to be almost perfect when trying to be oblique in a work and I had troubles with Dangarembga's attempt.

Did anyone have a problem with Tambudzai's characterization? I felt the author made her a little too unsympathetic, which lessened my care for her.


message 30: by Neil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Neil | 2035 comments Sam, it sounds like you had a similar experience to me with this book. I, too, struggled with the style and with sympathising with Tambudzai.


message 31: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam | 1713 comments Neil wrote: "Sam, it sounds like you had a similar experience to me with this book. I, too, struggled with the style and with sympathising with Tambudzai."

Yes, but the ending made the read worthwhile. Perhaps, like you said, it would have been better to have read her earliier books to see what the character was like before this volume.


Suzanne Whatley | 144 comments Finished this last night - I must admit I struggled my way through a fair bit of it. Like others, I found it hard to connect with the 2nd person narrative choice. I definitely admired the book but didn’t necessarily enjoy it. On the surface it ticked a lot of boxes for me in terms of the type of books I really love, but it just didn’t click with me - I do wonder how much that was impacted by the narrative choice. There were certainly parts that I really liked and I’m glad I read it. I just wanted to like it more than I did!


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments I am going to read the trilogy back to back - just read the first and made a few observations

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments A far more detailed review of the second (as there seems to be very little written about that book)

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments Ella wrote: "It's not called a sequel, but a "follow-up" does seem to feature in several reviews."

Ella - having now read the first two books and started the third they are very direct sequels - each book starts exactly where the other finishes. So this is a sequel to "The Book of Not" which in turn in my print version is actually subtitled "a sequel to nervous conditions"

I am interested in the experience of those who only read the third as it feels like it could be a very different book if you have not followed Tambu's lifestory (even if it seems to be frequently summarised in this book).


message 36: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Banks | 164 comments About to start reading this one. I won't read the earlier two at moment but may get to them at some stage if This Mournable Body interests me enough.


message 37: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Banks | 164 comments 100 pages in and my sense is there is a lot covered in the earlier two books about Tambudzai’s life experience that frames and contextualises her reactions and reflections in this one. Kind of interesting watching her life unravel (I guess an extended metaphor for the unraveling of Zimbabwe) without knowing that background, but have a strong impression I’m missing a lot. Will definitely go back and read the earlier two at some stage. I think will be difficult for me to review without knowing and experiencing how it connects with and continues the earlier two. Might be an initial review that I return to after reading the earlier books in the series.


message 38: by Neil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Neil | 2035 comments GY - I am one who has read only the third. At the time I read it, I felt that there were quite a lot of points where earlier events seemed to be summarised, so I thought that it didn't matter so much that I had not read the first two: I was getting a quick overview of them in this book, anyway. That's how it seemed at the time. But now, seeing your (and a couple of other) review of the first two, I begin to wonder if I have missed something.

John - my comment to GY means I am with you in having a strong impression that I have missed a lot. But then that feeds into one of the things I don't like when the Booker does it, which is pick a book that requires me to read one or two other books that are not on the longlist. In fact, from other comments, it seems the judges haven't done that, either, so if I want to have the same experience of the book as they had (to understand why they selected it), then I SHOULD read it without the first two parts. I loved Ali Smith's Summer, but I am sort of glad it wasn't selected because it makes no sense to read that without reading the other three parts. I feel sort of the same about Mantel, with the proviso that the other two books in her case of course won the prize, so it is likely a good proportion of people coming to this longlist will have read the first two parts of the trilogy anyway.


message 39: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3476 comments Mod
I suspect that it would have been easier to feel sympathy for Tambu having read the earlier books, and the political context would have been clearer.


message 40: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10025 comments The TMATL and This Mournable Body comparison is an interesting one I agree.

Mantel's books would, in a sense, be regarded as canonical in Booker terms, and so it expected that readers would be familiar with them (see also Atwood last year). But then the Booker judges, this year's panel in particular, ought to be looking to broaden people's view of the canon.

That said, they'd have been better doing it by leaving TMATL off the list, on the grounds it isn't stand alone, and including books like That Reminds Me, rather than including one that ideally requires having read other, non-Booker-featured-and-outside-the-white- British-Booker-canon, books.


MisterHobgoblin Paul wrote: "Mantel's books would, in a sense, be regarded as canonical in Booker terms."

I agree that this is the case but I am still puzzled about how it has happened. I have only read Wolf Hall (and Beyond Boring before that), and I really cannot see anything special about Wolf Hall or why it was deemed better than Mantel's previous works. It did, though, educate me about the origin of the phrase "every Tom, Dick and Harry" since all the male characters were named Thomas, Richard or Henry.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments John/Neil/Hugh - will try and write some thoughts on reading the trilogy later.

I have been surprised how many flashbacks there are in this book - pretty well every major incident in the first two books is outlined.

But also surprised how misleading an impression that the "outlines" give (and I think evidenced by some comments I have seen on the third book).

Tambu in the third book in particular is an unreliable narrator - particularly when describing her own life. Her inability to properly mourn (and grieve) for what has happened to her (but rather to sink into despondency and blame herself) - and the way that the author thinks that goes further for many in her country - is of course what gives the book its title and concept.


message 43: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3476 comments Mod
Gumble's Yard wrote: "John/Neil/Hugh - will try and write some thoughts on reading the trilogy later.

I have been surprised how many flashbacks there are in this book - pretty well every major incident in the first tw..."

Your comment about unreliable narration is interesting - since the book is written in the second person, I didn't think of Tambu as the narrator at all, but the narrator does seem to have an omniscient knowledge of her life.


message 44: by Neil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Neil | 2035 comments I read it as Tambu talking to herself.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments i need to find the quote but somewhere the author says something like "when people say you they often mean I" and that is the sense in which I wrote this. So I think the narrator is completely Tambu


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments Found it

Often when we talk we use “you” when we mean “I”. So that was the sense in which I used it

https://therumpus.net/2018/08/the-rum...


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments Very much my interpretation this time rather than the author's (as I have not seen her refer to it) but when the second book keep circling around the Shona concept of Unhu and particularly the greeting (which more signifies an entire worldview) “Tiripo, kana makadini wo!” (“I am well, if you are well too.”) and Tambu's difficulty in seeing how the concept applies in the new world she is entering: then the move from an "I" to a "you" narration takes on an added significance.


message 48: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam | 1713 comments I only read the third book of the trilogy, but feel my criticisms are not explained having not read the earlier books. I perceived the book as three sensational incidents (the bustop, the classroom, the mother's performance) surrounded by material that seemed more self-indulgent than of interest to this reader. The author's over-emphasized oblique approach left me feeling manipulated and annoyed rather than challenged. I found the author's treatment of the school incident to be troubling, with Tambu's behavior unconvincingly rationalized by justifying or excusing ploys, which I found questionable. In comparison, I would make the same criticisms of Helen Oyeyemi, who also IMO seems to write with self indulgent obliqueness at times and has been criticized for it, though there are plenty of avid fans with opposite views. They also reflect my personal taste for I value devices like ellipsis, opacity, sensationalism, and repetition when used sparingly and thoughtfully like spices, so as not to overpower the whole.


Emily M | 572 comments Does anybody know if the Booker judges have read the previous two? It seems an entirely different situation to the Mantel, where a literary-minded person would have to be living under a rock to not be at least aware of the previous ones, and probably the history too. I had never heard of this author before.

I'm very interested by your comparison to Helen Oyeyemi's opaqueness, Sam. I love Oyeyemi but not when she goes to extremes, so this does not bode well. My library hold just came in on this book, so I'll read it soon.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6590 comments Its taken me quite a lot of time to get my thoughts down but here they are:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I have tried to explore how the book relates to the first two and why the second person voice was important


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