15 NOVEMBER 1997, Page 38

Anita Brookner

The best English novels of the year were undoubtedly John Banville's The Untouch- able (Picador, £15.99) and Ian McEwan's Enduring Love (Cape, £15.99), both seri- ous, clever and artful, both unaccountably omitted from the Booker shortlist. Memory resolutely refuses to disclose the titles of those which proved to be more ephemeral. The French came up with a slightly higher count. Patrick Modiano's Dora Bruder (Gallimard) was a short, intense meditation on one girl's disappearance in the dark days of wartime Paris, while Lydie Salvayre's up-to-the-minute La Compagnie des Spectres (Seuil) is a tour de force which deals — again — with events which took place in 1943. French novels this year are obsessed with the war, and this even before the Papon trial. Jean-Dominique Bauby's Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (Laffont) continues to maintain its impact. My own personal favourite, The Putterrnesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick (Knopf), is the authentic voice of New York, combining good nature and satire in perfect harmony.