Finalist for the 2016 Man Booker Prize
Winner of the 2016 Paris Review Plimpton Prize for Fiction
A magnificent and ambitiously conceived portrait of contemporary life, by a genius of realism
Nine men. Each of them at a different stage in life, each of them away from home, and each of them striving--in the suburbs of Prague, in an overdeveloped Alpine village, beside a Belgian motorway, in a dingy Cyprus hotel--to understand what it means to be alive, here and now. Tracing a dramatic arc from the spring of youth to the winter of old age, the ostensibly separate narratives of All That Man Is aggregate into a picture of a single shared existence, a picture that interrogates the state of modern manhood while bringing to life, unforgettably, the physical and emotional terrain of an increasingly globalized Europe. And so these nine lives form an ingenious and new kind of novel, in which David Szalay expertly plots a dark predicament for the twenty-first-century man.
Dark and disturbing, but also often wickedly and uproariously comic, All That Man Is is notable for the acute psychological penetration Szalay brings to bear on his characters, from the working-class ex-grunt to the pompous college student, the middle-aged loser to the Russian oligarch. Steadily and mercilessly, as this brilliantly conceived book progresses, the protagonist at the center of each chapter is older than the last one, it gets colder out, and All That Man Is gathers exquisite power. Szalay is a writer of supreme gifts--a master of a new kind of realism that vibrates with detail, intelligence, relevance, and devastating pathos.
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 has boundless empathy and a deft wit. 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.