“War is what happens…

…when language fails.”
― Margaret Atwood

There’s something about the astonishing horror of war that brings out the most human of stories. Spanning all thematic arcs from tragedy to triumph these narratives explore grand notions of destiny, glory and patriotism alongside intimate theatres of love, personal sacrifice and extreme resilience.

Examining wars real and imaginary, ancient and present, from classics to modern Booker-prize winners there’s something in this list for everyone.

1915: A Novel of Gallipoli (1979)1984-by-opallynn-d4lnuoh
Roger McDonald

1984 (1949)
George Orwell

A Farewell to Arms (1929)
Ernest Hemingway

All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)
Erich Maria Remarque

Atonement (2001)
Ian McEwan

Birdsong (1993)Birdsong-Sebastian-Faulks
Sebastian Faulks

Catch-22 (1961)
Joseph Heller

Cold Mountain (1997)
Charles Frazier

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
Ernest Hemingway

Gone With the Wind (1936)
Margaret Mitchell

Matterhorn (2009)9780802145314_p0_v1_s260x420
Karl Marlantes

Regeneration (1991)
Pat Barker

Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
Kurt Vonnegut

The Book Thief (2005)
Markus Zusak

The Iliad (800 BC)
Homer

The Kite Runner (2002)ou-cover
Khaled Hosseini

The March (2005)
E. L. Doctorow

The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013)
Richard Flanagan

The Things They Carried (1990)
Tim O’Brien

The Quiet American (1955)
Graham Greene

Tomorrow, When the War Began (1993)17905709
John Marsden

War & Peace (1869)
Leo Tolstoy

War Horse (1982)
Michael Morpurgo

Elise Janes

Richard Flanagan wins the Man Booker Prize 2014

Deep Road to Narrow NorthThe Man Booker Prize for Fiction is considered by many to be the Holy Grail of literary prizes, awarded to an original work written in English and published in the UK. It results in huge acclaim for authors as well as their publishers, with longlisters, shortlisters and the eventual winning novel driving sales and propping the book trade.

While it’s not gone without its share of controversy, perhaps the most notable change to the Man Booker in recent times was its decision to open the competition to any English-writing author of any country (although the restriction of UK publication still remains). Thus the doors were nudged ajar, and this year’s shortlist included Americans Karen Joy Fowler: We are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and Joshua Ferris: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. Two-time winner of the Man Booker, Australian Peter Carey, publicly decried the decision, claiming the competition’s ‘cultural flavour’ would be lost.

However he, and everyone else who worried about the encroachment of US writers (who already have access to their own Holy Grail awards, including the Pulitzer and the National Book Award), needn’t have bothered. Did anyone really suppose that these first-chance ‘interlopers’ — despite producing truly wonderful work — would snatch the trophy? The Atlantic may have been bridged, but it’s a long drive between coastlines.

No. This year’s winner, announced last night, is Richard Flanagan (an Australian from down-under-DownUnder) for his astounding and deeply personal novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (published in Australia by Random House Books), which centres on prisoners and their captors in a Japanese POW camp along the Thai-Burma railway. The novel — Flanagan’s sixth — was described by judges as ‘a harrowing account of the cost of war to all who are caught up in it’. Flanagan’s father, a survivor of the Burma railway, died the day Flanagan finished writing the book.

It’s a remarkable win for Flanagan, though not undeserved. He’s the third Australian to have won the award in its 46-year history. Previous Australian laureates are Thomas Keneally and, of course, Peter Carey. Twice. And it does perhaps underscore what all writers know — that even with the backing of prizes like the Man Booker, there are few ‘overnight’ successes, and perseverance does pay. Eventually.

Naturally, it’s already been announced that a new edition of The Narrow Road to the Deep North will be out tomorrow. It’s a great coup, not just for Flanagan and his publishers, but also for bookshops, who are racing to stock their shelves. And it’s a great win for Australian literature — we really do write some great stuff, don’t we?

But for Richard Flanagan — a seemingly unassuming man with a ready smile (who looks an awful lot like fellow Aussie, Clive James) — it’s the great nod all writers look for. Well done, Richard, and congratulations.

The Cringe