The shortlist for the 44th annual Man Booker Prize was announced last night in the UK and it’s a list that supports ‘new guard’ novelists and independent publishers.
The announcement of the longlist in July surprised many in its omission of new releases by some of the biggest names in contemporary fiction such as Peter Carey, Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan and Martin Amis. Chair of Judges Peter Stothard argued at the time that the board ‘did not set out to reject the old guard but, after a year of sustained critical argument by a demanding panel of judges, the new has come powering through.’
The new guard is indeed strongly present, with two debut novelists amongst the shortlisted titles: Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse and Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis. But the favourites for this year still appear to be more established older guard writers such as Will Self and previous Man Booker winner Hilary Mantel, who took out the prize in 2009 for Wolf Hall (to which her shortlisted novel Bring Up The Bodies is the follow-up). If Mantel, the bookies’ favourite, wins this would make her the first British, and first female, novelist to take out the Man Booker twice.
There are six works on the shortlist, down from a longlist of twelve titles, with an even split along gender lines: three novels by men (Eng, Self, Thayil), three by women (Levy, Mantel, Moore). Four of the authors are British, one Indian and one Malaysian. As I noted earlier this year, no Australian novelists made the longlist, so Australian authors are out of contention for the Man Booker this year.
‘It was the pure power of prose that settled most debates,’ Peter Stothard said in a statement on the announcement. ‘We loved the shock of language shown in so many different ways and were exhilarated by the vigour and vividly defined values in the six books that we chose – and in the visible confidence of the novel’s place in forming our words and ideas.’
The shortlist is likely to run into far less controversy than last year’s notorious focus on ‘readability,’ which drew strong criticism and was viewed as creating a ‘false divide’ between high and lowbrow fiction.
The six shortlisted titles are:
- Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books)
- Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories/Faber & Faber)
- Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate)
- Alison Moore, The Lighthouse (Salt)
- Will Self, Umbrella (Bloomsbury)
- Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (Faber & Faber)
The prize, which is the most prestigious literary award in the UK, ‘aims to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland,’ with the overall winner receiving a £50,000 prize. The winner will be announced on October 16th.
What do you think of the shortlist? Which text would you like to see win?