C

Tom McCarthy, Jonathan Cape, 2010

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, C explores the early years of radio transmission. Other technological whiz-bangery (much superseded) features, including the gramophone, the ammeter (which supposedly gauged “spirit levels”) 15-inch howitzers, a monosoupape pusher, twin-seater flying machine and more.

Technology and melancholy are at the book’s heart. Tom McCarthy writes this about them: “Each technological appendage, to a large degree, embodies an absence, a loss.”

He also writes of technology in Kafka’s novels as being “positively gnostic: always on the verge of revealing some great, universal wonder — yet always withholding this revelation even as it seems to offer it”.

Marjorie Lewis-Jones

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