Eileen Battersby’s books of the year: Fiction
Our Literary Correspondent reveals her 30 highlights in fiction for 2015
The End of Days By Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky (Portobello)
What if a life unlived was lived, differently, several times? Erpenbeck’s metaphysical fictions are strange and beautiful, stern and compelling. This devastating work is as light as a dream and as unrelenting as real life. Sustained by a chilling grace, it recasts the agonies of 20th-century history. No reader can feel untouched by Erpenbeck’s inspired, and inspiring, vision.
All for Nothing By Walter Kempowski, translated by Anthea Bell (Granta)
Behind the walls of an East Prussian manor house, the no longer wealthy if still privileged von Globig carry on much as before, while everywhere else thousands of Germans flee the advancing Russians. Kempowski, who was also an historian, spent his life in the shadow of Günter Grass. All For Nothing has pathos, irony, moments of genius and unforgettable characters including Peter, a young boy and a detached witness to much horror. Bell captures the tone of laconic despair in a marvellous translation.