Man Booker Prize 2016 longlist
Serious Spoiler Alert!
The Many is about a dead adolescent: Perran. It is not quite clear whether he died from drowning of from swallowing polluted water. The fishing village in which he grew up has been banned from entering the water, the fisherman are no longer allowed to fish beyond a barrier created by a series of old cargo vessels. The fish that are caught are deformed and far too thin. Some 10 years after Perran’s death Timothy moves into his house. At first he hardly talks to the villagers, after a while he kind of befriends one fisher, Ethan, a close friend of Perran’s. Ethan brings Timothy along on his boat, together they pass the barrier and for the first time in ten years bring home a decent – though weird looking – catch. By then Timothy has become obsessed with Perran. He wants to know more about him and does not accept that the village is not willing to talk about Perran. When he persists, they demolish the interior of the house. Next the village is hit by a mysterious flood wave, cracks start to appear in the beach, the street, the houses and the people. This is the moment Menmuir chooses to reveal that Timothy is morning his still-born son. The village appears to be part of a dream Timothy is having in which he is dealing with his son’s death. In this dream he has returned to a village he and his wife once stayed in, when they were still happy. It explains why Timothy has chosen this rather unfriendly place as his escape to the country. The apathy of everybody in the village, the way Ethan starts to fight circumstance, they appear to be an allegory for Timothy’s mourning. At the end Ethan frees himself by diving into the sea, Timothy can finally acknowledge his son’s death. I cannot as yet explain the role of the pollution and the way the village is being controlled by outsiders. Might it be symbolical for the loss of control over body and destiny when a child is still-born? Or for the fact that the save womb turned out to be not save at all? I know for certain that by adding the pollution Menmuir led me astray. He did not write a brutally realistic novel about a fishing community destined to go down, he created an allegorical dream. That he described the grim community perfectly is an added bonus. I doubt whether this novel will be a hit amongst a large audience. It’s magic-realism will not be appreciated by everyone. I needed some time to grasp that the novel is about the death of a still-born child and the ensuing mourning. The dream world becomes superfluous with acceptance of the facts. I have not got a clue by the way what the title means, it might come to me later.