Ed Wright

Test cricket and the novel are two pinnacles of modern cultural achievement, long-haul enterprises of intricacy and complexity. Why, then, have the two rarely intersected? It is especially strange given that cricket has arguably had more books devoted to it than has any other sport. Literary-minded cricket lovers will rhapsodise over the prose style of C.L.R. James or the nostalgic elegance of Neville Cardus, but few books about cricket have been fiction, and even fewer of them have been much good. While Joseph O’Neill’s recent Netherland (2008) was a fine offbeat novel that featured cricket, there have been no great works of cricket fiction. Until now.

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The esteemed critic and lecturer Don Anderson once told me that Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past was a book you shouldn’t read until you were over forty. Still in my twenties at the time, hungry for erudition, I was annoyed and set out to read the book, only to put it down even more irritated some time later, thinking, If that boy calls out to his mother one more time, I’ll scream. Reading John Hughes’s début novel, The Remnants, I was reminded of Dr Anderson’s sage remark. There are books that can only be fully appreciated once the first real terror of one’s own mortality has been felt. This is one, and there is much to be savoured in this sharp-minded regeneration of literary tradition and its enquiries into memory, dying, translation, and translocation that I suspect would have sailed straight over my younger head.

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