Book review: The Guard, By Peter Terrin
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Friday 25 October 2013
The motif of stranded sentinels condemned to repeat pointless duties during, or after, some offstage catastrophe has bred an eerily powerful strain of fiction, from Kafka through Dino Buzatti to JM Coetzee and Magnus Mills.
Terrin's wonderfully sinister, darkly funny novel owes more to this genre than to simple SF. Guards Harry and narrator Michel keep watch in a tower-block basement as the "New War" empties the city.
Many twists ensue. Finely translated (from Dutch) by David Colmer, the deadpan, exact, discomfiting prose keeps an icy grip.
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