Harvest time for Jim Crace as he signs off with a final novel
Jim Crace is one of the finest English novelists of the past 20 years - so why has he written his final novel?
Equally, Being Dead , an unforgettable cautionary fable of sorts (1999) that won the 2001 National Book Critics Circle award in the US, its only major literary award open to a non-US citizen, explores the process of what happens to the body after death. A middle-aged couple, both marine biologists, are murdered while making love in sand dunes. Crace had no interest in their killer – it was a random crime – just what happened to the bodies.
All That Follows (2010) looks at the failure to take action. “I’ve always been aware of this need to stand and make a stance, but so often we fail, I’ve failed, to do so. I wanted to take an okay person who fails to act, and a not-so-good individual who does.”
Crace is a singular writer, an original who takes chances and has, at times, achieved an Englishness comparable to that of William Golding, yet he is no imitator.
It seems more than fitting that Crace’s final novel should be so masterful. “I see it as a Shakespeare book. I don’t mean for that to sound arrogant. But I am obsessed with Shakespeare; we are about, where I live, an hour from Stratford-upon-Avon. I’d like to see this as a Shakespeare book and yes, there are made-up words. But when Shakespeare used words, often it was the first time they were used. It was like he invented them.”
Crace is so good at making up words and the names of things that they always sound real. “Well a farmer is going to know the name of something, he’s not going to say ‘that thingy there’ – he’ll call it by its name.” Crace logic is always persuasive; he could win any argument.
Tense and atmospheric, sustained by a sense of change, of endings, the death of a way of life, Jim Crace’s final novel
is just that, a reaping of a rich reward, his literary gift. He is delighted and grins, half-wickedly, “Good book to end with? Yes?” A very good one, one of his best, and that is saying something.
Harvest is published by Pan Macmillan