SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2016 MAN BOOKER PRIZE
WINNER OF THE EDGE HILL READER'S CHOICE AWARD
Nine men. Each of them at a different stage of life, each of them away from home, and each of them striving – in the suburbs of Prague, beside a Belgian motorway, in a cheap Cypriot hotel – to understand just what it means to be alive, here and now.
Tracing an arc from the spring of youth to the winter of old age, All That Man Is brings these separate lives together to show us men as they are – ludicrous and inarticulate, shocking and despicable; vital, pitiable, hilarious, and full of heartfelt longing. And as the years chase them down, the stakes become bewilderingly high in this piercing portrayal of 21st-century manhood.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Winter is coming in David Szalay’s All That Man Is, a novel that kicks off with a teenager traipsing through Prague in the springtime and ends decades later with a 73-year-old retiree in a lonely Italian town. Locations change, but Szalay’s preoccupation with modern masculinity—and the many ways men fail themselves—holds. If that makes the book sounds bleak, it miraculously isn’t. Szalay, a finalist for 2016’s Man Booker Prize, has boundless empathy and a deft wit, and his textured prose is a genuine pleasure.
Szalay (London and the South-East) delivers a kaleidoscopic portrayal of nine men at various stages in their lives, each in the throes of extraordinary change. Despite their diverse circumstances, they are all somehow connected, engaged in a search for relevance and dare they even consider it meaning. English teenagers Simon and Ferdinand arrive in Berlin with competing ideas of how best to enjoy their time abroad; B rnard, working halfheartedly in his uncle's window shop outside Lille, France, experiences a life-altering holiday at a Cyprus beach resort; Kristian, a successful Danish tabloid editor, brings down the country's defense minister after an indiscretion; Aleksandr, a disgraced Russian oligarch, contemplates suicide; an aging diplomat considers his mortality while recuperating from a heart operation in an Italian villa and notes, in what could be the book's tagline, "How little we understand about life as it is actually happening. The moments fly past, like trackside pylons seen from a train window." Without exception, the stories subtle, seductive, poignant, humorous bear witness to the alienation, self-doubt, and fragmentation of contemporary life; each succeeds on its own while complementing the others. Szalay's riveting prose and his consummate command of structure illuminate the individual while exploring society's unsettling complexity. In 2013, Szalay was named as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. This effort exceeds even that lofty expectation.