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Boyd, William

africa novels story war

(British, 1952– )

Boyd spent part of his childhood in Africa, which provided the setting for his first two novels, A Good Man in Africa (1981) and An Ice Cream War (1982). The former is a sprightly comedy about the misadventures of a cynical, overweight diplomat in an obscure West African state. The latter, shortlisted for the 1982 Booker Prize, is set during the First World War in East Africa, and mingles comedy with tragedy in the story of a group of Europeans engaged in a theatre of fighting that their countrymen back home seem to have forgotten about. Boyd is a story-teller, in a manner that is rare in contemporary literary fiction: his novels and short stories, even those with modernist elements, are written in unflashy prose, and move along at an energetic pace. They have, too, a strong element of farce, perhaps most successfully deployed in Armadillo (1998), in which Lorimer Black, a loss adjuster, finds his carefully ordered world shattered by a series of grotesque and sinister events. As well as novels, Boyd has written screenplays for television and film, and has directed a film, The Trench (1999).

Kingsley Amis, Michael Frayn, Julian Barnes  NC

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