16 NOVEMBER 2002, Page 47

Francis King

This year brought a number of good works of fiction. It also brought one great one. Andrei Makine's A Life's Music (Sceptre, £12.99) is no more than 106 pages long; but miraculously this Russian-born author, now living in France and writing in French, encompasses within that small space the whole tragic life of a budding concert pianist who, through no fault of his own, is gradually stripped of everything except life itself during the years of Stalin's rule. At the close, one feels that one had read not a novella but an epic. I was also impressed by Yann Martell's imaginatively adventurous Life of Pi (Canongate, £12.99). The Booker Prize so often goes either to established authors for books that show them at less than their best or to unknown or little known authors for books of no outstanding merit, that it was a relief that this year the judges got it absolutely right.