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With just one week to go before we find out which category winner will carry off the Costa book of the year prize, we assess the contenders and talk to the winner of the biography prize Bart van Es. Van Es discusses his turn from English literature to biography, and why he wanted to examine how it was possible to survive the Holocaust and go on to live a full and complex life. He also considers the particular challenges for a biographer presented with a subject whose memory has been fractured through trauma. Next we head back to the 16th century, where the French writer Mathias Énard imagines Michelangelo travelling to Constantinople to build a bridge across the Golden Horn. It’s a metaphor that is almost too acute at the beginning of the 21st century, Énard says. He explains why the novel gives voice to a young singer, and how historical fiction is forged from the gaps in the record. Reading list The Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es (Penguin) Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber) The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Raven) The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay (Macmillan) Assurances by JO Morgan (Jonathan Cape) Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants by Mathias Énard (Fitzcarraldo)

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