Continent Paperback – 16 Oct 1995
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'A remarkable first novel, which announces a most promising new fabulist in English fiction' John Fowles --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Winner of the Whitbread First Novel Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize and the David Higham Award. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The momentary puzzlement is chiefly in why there is a need to invent a new continent, when we quickly grasp that these are old stories. They describe tribes discovered, peculiarities of tradition and ritual; they describe a calligraphic art desecrated by greedy politicians; they describe a young man travelling to America and back to his father's farm in the distant hills, replete with contempt for the old superstitions by which his people live. The stories, in fact, parallel the stories of colonialism, corruption and patronisation with which we, here in this world, are all too familiar.
I am hugely admiring of Jim Crace for his refusal to be bound by literary realism's conventions. I loved Quarantine, Six, The Gift of Stones, Being Dead, The Devil's Larder, and most of all The Pesthouse and Signals of Distress, for me his two masterpieces.
Continent is beautifully written, since Crace cannot write a bad sentence, but this is an early book and much that came after it is superior in story-telling. Any of the novels listed above have in abundance Crace's true gift of compelling literary genius. This one, for me, is only slightly marred by the conceit of its setting.
An imagined 7th continent is revealed in 7 stories. This imagined land might not be named or located for us, however it certainly is amongst those we do know, and regularly interacts with its neighbors. Pycletius states that his 7th landmass has business, and it is that of both trade and superstition. The Continent of Mr. Crace shares the attributes that Pycletius lists, and the darker sides of man. It was almost as though he was going to tell tales of the 7 deadly sins. While some of the stories do fit those themes, to say that others do would be a stretch. If you were to add some of the fables of Aesop, then you would have the stories covered.
These stories do contain some themes that are familiar. What makes them special is Jim Crace's unique way of presenting his variations. A person who jogs for exercise would seem to be completely benign; however Jim Crace demonstrates how this seemingly harmless activity can damage a small town. The concept of tradition is examined, and success when it means money can become insidious, and destructive.Read more ›
Continent, his debut, is different. I don't think it's a novel, for a start. It reads like seven short stories. And I don't see why he had to invent a seventh continent as backdrop. I've never been to Africa or South America but have read enough from both to visualise them as the settings for this book.
So, that apart, it is of course a good read and two of the pieces stand out - On Heat in the middle, with a very fine twist, and Electricity as a good example of prefiguring a final scene. A sense of menace suffuses all the stories; perhaps this disturbance casts the reader into an unknown world, an unknown continent.