Man Booker shortlist: Mix of old and new names

The six ti­tles ‘push against the bor­ders of con­ven­tion’, said the head judge on Wed­nes­day.

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TWO first-time fe­male au­thors fea­ture on the 2017 Man Booker Prize fic­tion shortlist, which com­prises three women and three men in­clud­ing best­selling Amer­i­can writer Paul Auster.

Sub­jects this year range from the strug­gle of a fam­ily try­ing to re­tain its self-suf­fi­ciency in ru­ral Eng­land to a love story be­tween two refugees flee­ing civil war.

In the fourth year that the £50,000 (RM278,000) prize has been open to writ­ers of any na­tion­al­ity, the shortlist is made up of two Bri­tons, one Bri­tain­based Pak­istani, and three Amer­i­can writ­ers.

Auster’s 4321 of­fers four ver­sions of one young man’s life while fel­low US au­thor Emily Frid­lund’s de­but novel, His­tory Of Wolves, is a com­ing-of-age tale of a teenage girl seek­ing a place to be­long.

El­met, the first book by Bri­tish au­thor Fiona Mo­z­ley, tells the story of a fa­ther and his two chil­dren who clash with landown­ers af­ter they build a home for them­selves.

Lon­don-based Pak­istani au­thor Mohsin Hamid is on the list with Exit West in which refugees can use doors to es­cape to other parts of the world.

Ac­claimed short story writer Ge­orge Saunders’ first novel, Lin­coln In The Bardo, is about Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln and the death of his 11-year-old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Amer­i­can Civil War, in 1861.

Scot­tish writer Ali Smith is on the shortlist for the fourth time, this year with Au­tumn, a med­i­ta­tion on a world grow­ing ever more bor­dered and ex­clu­sive.

The Man Booker Prize is awarded each year for the best orig­i­nal novel, writ­ten in the English lan­guage and pub­lished in Bri­tain. It is one of the world’s most pres­ti­gious English-lan­guage lit­er­ary awards, and the win­ner is guar­an­teed a huge in­crease in global sales that dwarfs prize money.

Founded in 1969 and orig­i­nally open only to writ­ers from Bri­tain, Ire­land, and the Com­mon­wealth, the Booker ex­panded in 2014 to in­clude all English-lan­guage au­thors.

Its first Amer­i­can win­ner was Paul Beatty’s The Sell­out in 2016.

The change spurred fears among some Bri­tish writ­ers and pub­lish­ers that it would bring US dom­i­nance to a prize whose pre­vi­ous win­ners in­clude Sal­man Rushdie, Ben Okri, Mar­garet At­wood, and Hilary Man­tel.

House of Lords mem­ber Baroness Lola Young, chair­woman of the judg­ing panel, said “na­tion­al­ity is not an is­sue” in con­sid­er­a­tions.

“We judge the books that are sub­mit­ted to us,” she said. “We make our judg­ment based not on any­body’s na­tion­al­ity or their gen­der or any­thing else, other than what is writ­ten on those pages,” she said when the list was an­nounced on Wed­nes­day (Sept 13).

This year, 30% of the 144 books sub­mit­ted by pub­lish­ers were Amer­i­can, slightly down on last year.

Of the se­lec­tion, Young said: “With six unique and in­trepid books that col­lec­tively push against the bor­ders of con­ven­tion, this year’s shortlist both ac­knowl­edges es­tab­lished au­thors and in­tro­duces new voices to the lit­er­ary stage.

“Play­ful, sin­cere, un­set­tling, fierce: here is a group of nov­els grown from tra­di­tion but also rad­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary. The emo­tional, cul­tural, po­lit­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual range of these books is re­mark­able, and the ways in which they chal­lenge our think­ing is a tes­ta­ment to the power of lit­er­a­ture,” she added.

The win­ner will be an­nounced on Oct 17 in Lon­don.

The six ti­tles

Ali Smith (Bri­tain) Au­tumn (pub­lisher: Hamish Hamil­ton)

Emily Frid­lund (US) His­tory Of Wolves (pub­lisher: Wei­den­feld & Ni­col­son)

Fiona Mo­z­ley (Bri­tain) El­met (pub­lisher: J.M. Orig­i­nals)

Ge­orge Saunders (US) Lin­coln In The Bardo (pub­lisher: Blooms­bury Pub­lish­ing)

Mohsin Hamid (Bri­tain-Pak­istan) Exit West (pub­lisher: Hamish Hamil­ton)

Paul Auster (US) 4321 (pub­lisher: Faber & Faber) – Agen­cies

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