Book Review: Year of the Drought, Roland Butt

This Swiss award-winner is an elegant elegy for a dying world

Most serious books are about a kind of loss, and Swiss writer Roland Buti’s Year of the Drought is no different. Winner of many literary prizes in its native land, this story of the 1976 scorching summer effectively weaves a touching coming-of-age tale into a elegy for a dying rural life.

There is some terrific pastoral poetry in this memoir of decay

Farmer’s son Auguste is on the cusp of adolescence, at that most delicate of moments when his enthusiasm for manhood is conflicted with an instinct to cry out for his safe-guarded childhood. An exotic visitor, Cecile, becomes a cipher for unfulfilled desires, and not just those of the lust-panged 13-year-old.

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There is some terrific pastoral poetry in this memoir of decay. And while the metaphors of corrosion are occasionally overplayed, the perpetual sense of an ending – the cracked land, the fading of love, and the passing of youth – gives it a memorable melancholia.

Year of the Drought, Roland Buti, out now (Old Street, £10.99)