Eileen Battersby’s favourite fiction and nonfiction of 2016
The year’s best novels, collections, memoirs and translations range around the world
“Laconic and wise" Roy Jacobsen, author of “The Unseen”. Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images
The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen, translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw
The apparently simple story of three generations of an early 20th-century fishing family living on a remote island at the mercy of the weather quickly acquires an epic quality. The Norwegian writer Roy Jacobsen, laconic and wise, here shapes a monumental, engaging work of great beauty centred on the theme of not only how a way of life changes, but how life itself is ever subject to flux and transition.
The Evenings by Gerard Reve, translated by Sam Garrett
Bored young Frits is clever and aimless, given to monitoring the baldness of others. He is a drifter living in Amsterdam with his increasingly deaf father and fussily cheerful mother as all around them attempt to recover from the second World War and the inertia of peace. Initially published in 1947 and now finally translated from the Dutch, Reve’s masterfully sardonic narrative spans the torpid days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and is as funny as it is ultimately profound.