15 NOVEMBER 1997, Page 39

Carole Angier

For the second year in a row (and probably much longer, but my memory doesn't go back that far), not one of my Best Books of the Year is English. That must mean some Best Translators too.

Bernhard Schlink's The Reader (translat- ed by Carol Brown Janeway, Phoenix House, £12.99) brilliantly dramatises the question of German guilt for the Holo- caust: definitely the most disturbing book of the year. Le Testament Francais by Rus- sian-French Andrei Makine (translated by Geoffrey Strachan) won both the Prix Goncourt and Prix Medicis, and deserved to: beautiful, elegiac and heart-breaking. Tobias Wolff, despite being American, needs no translator; the stories of The Night in Question (Bloomsbury, £6.99) are as sharp and sad as ever. But my absolute Best Book of the Year is Hungarian: Peter IsTada's A Book of Memories (Cape, £20, translated by Ivan Sanders and Imre Gold- stein), a huge, demanding, marvellous novel about communism, art and homo- sexual love.

My Worst Book of the Year was almost Hungarian, but Tibor Fischer's parents came to England after 1956: his The Collector Collector (Seeker, £12.99) is teeth- grindingly arch. What with Arundhati Roy arriving and Martin Amis leaving, has Englishness become the kiss of death for the novel?