The Big Issue is committed to supporting independent publishers and great books which often don’t get the awards or critical attention they deserve. This is our shortlist of the best independently published books of 2022.
The best independently published books of 2022
Chilean Poet by Alejandro Zambra (Granta)
For lovers of Zambra’s previous work (Multiple Choice, Bonsai) Chilean Poet initially raised some misgivings. This is a comparably conventional novel for a writer long celebrated for
his bold experimentation and anti-establishment instincts.
Thankfully Zambra is neither an indie sell-out nor a middle-aged spent force; rather he is a Picasso-esque eccentric who proves himself a master regardless of context or competition. Chilean Poet begins beautifully, with a series of scenes from a teenage romance both tenderly wrought and laugh-out-loud funny. The delight in bodies and skin and teeth and tongues; the perpetual rhythm of beating-heart anticipation and anti-climax, exulted passion and cynical ennui, panic and serenity: Zambra, with startling clarity, remembers it all.
As the novel follows its young protagonists from gawky adolescence to adulthood it loses its breathlessness and wisely matures, exploring the challenges of being an under-pressure Chilean poet alongside the love between a stepfather and son; Zambra’s portrayal of little Vicente will strike a nostalgic pang in anyone who has ever enjoyed an intimate relationship with a six-year-old boy (he himself has a four-year-old son). So exquisite is the writing and so excellent the jokes, I could easily compose this review entirely of direct quotes, sentences of extraordinary craft and beauty. The combination of poignancy and belly laughs reminded me at different times of George Saunders, Jojo Rabbit writer/director Taika Waititi and early Woody Allen. It is, in short, a complete joy. And the
ending is an unforgettable Oscar-worthy knockout.
The Age of Uncertainty by Tobias Hürter (Scribe)
Hürter’s remarkable book explores the lives of those who achieved some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the last 100 years, including Marie Curie, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger and Albert Einstein. But this is far from a straightforward introduction to great scientists and their work. Instead, Hurter treats his subjects like the cast in a nail-bitingly enthralling drama, in which the fizzing dynamics between his flawed protagonists – mavericks, explorers, celebrities and geeks – hurry along a revolutionary upending of Newtonian physics. A stark reminder that epic thrillers aren’t always found in the fiction section.
The Impostor by Silvina Ocampo (Serpent’s Tale)
This Argentinian short story writer, who died in 1993, has become a revered name in South American literary circles. Literary giants like Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino long championed her strange and alluring work. It is an indictment of the English-speaking publishing world that it so often takes decades (and the tenacity of lesser funded indie publishers) to bring such talents to wider western attention. Thanks to Serpent’s Tail, we are finally privy to the writer whose stories, said Borges “have no equal in our literature”.