“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for?” Franz Kafka
In an alternative translation of the above Kafka quote, “wound” and “stab” are written as “bite” and “sting”, Sheepshagger by Niall Griffiths does all these things to the reader, and then some.
In ecstatic prose and with raw energy and furious rhythms Griffiths brings you on a wild ride in the Welsh countryside with the unhinged “scruffy skinny spotty” Ianto, an almost mute, feral savant-ish youth who roams the mountains intoxicated not only with drink/drugs but with his own feverish imaginings. This is quite possibly the best British novel in the last twenty years, an exhilarating ride, and an unforgettable read.
You can have your Jonathan Franzens with their mild social comedies, but anyone who craves for their servings of viscera, then this is the real daring deal. Like all the best writers writing today (Banville, Delillo, Ford) he makes you care about sentences. In fact he makes you want to do two contradictory things: he makes you want to pick up a pen and try out your own rich metaphors (the purple-ness can be utterly inspiring), and he also makes you want to never pick up a pen again, because you can never do it this well.
Confrontational, often outrageous, criminally ignored (too dangerous for the Booker?), this is the kind of novel Kafka meant, so take a jaunt on the wild side.
It might have been lazily billed the Welsh Blood Meridian by some, but Sheepshagger stands singular in its own right, and it set the standard for writing excellence at the beginning of the new millennium.
Colin O’Sullivan is the author of KILLARNEY BLUES