By Asmita Sarkar:
It has been 13 years since The Booker Prize Foundation took over the responsibility of awarding the prestigious literary award by the same name. Held every year, it is awaited with abated breath and is the cause of many debates in the literary world. This year’s shortlist was released recently on Tuesday 15th September.
Michael Wood, the Chair of the judges of the Booker Prize, said, “We are delighted by the diversity of the list but it is an accident. We were not looking for diversity…It suggests the novel is alive and well in different places.”
A move that was discussed much in literary and political circles last year, the participation was opened up to writers of all nationalities, who were writing in English and had been published in U.K. Prior to that, participation was open only to residents of UK, the Commonwealth, Ireland and Zimbabwe. The winner last year, an Australian author, Richard Flanagan won for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
This year’s list has a debut novelist from Nigeria, a first time nominee from Jamaica, two from UK and US each. Amongst the UK nominees, one is of Indian origin.
Grim, violent and full of humour, is how the judges describe this year’s list.
1. Marlon James (Jamaica), ‘A Brief History Of Seven Killings’ – This is the first time nominee’s third novel. The book talks about the seven gunmen who tried to assassinate singer Bob Marley.
2. Tom McCarthy (UK), ‘Satin Island’ – The book is a post-modern work talking about the life of U., a “corporate anthropologist.” One can expect some Kafkaesque horror from this work.
3. Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), ‘The Fishermen’ – He is the youngest nominee at the age of 28. His work is about the life of four brothers who meet a madman in a town in Nigeria.
4. Sunjeev Sahota (UK), ‘The Year Of The Runaways’ – An author of Indian origin, this is his second novel. The book is centred on a ‘migrant’ house in Sheffield. In light of the growing migrant population in Europe, the book would appeal not only to the already present Indian diaspora but also to those of other nations, in the same situation.
5. Anne Tyler (US), ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’ – She had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1989 for her work Breathing Lessons. A Spool of Blue Thread, her 20th novel, takes the reader through three generations of a family in the US.
6. Hanya Yanagihara (US), ‘A Little Life’ – An American novelist of Hawaiian descent, she is a travel writer and has worked with Conde Nast Traveller. Her debut novel had received much acclaim in 2013.
Jonathan Ruppin from Foyles bookseller commented on the opening of the prize to those of all nationalities, “It’s very interesting to see that four of the six authors are non-white, beating 2013’s record of three. It vindicates the opening up of the prize to all Anglophone writers, rather than just the antiquated category of the Commonwealth. English-language writing is a global phenomenon, blending a huge range of cultures, and the world’s biggest literary award now reflects this far better.”
The result, to be released on 13th October, is awaited with much trepidation and excitement in the literary world. The winning author receives not just a cheque of 50,000 pound but also a life of literary recognition and of course, a boost in book sales.