2017 Man Booker Prize Longlist – the strongest ever?

July 27, 2017 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

The longlist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize was revealed yesterday, and what an impressive list it is:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

The judges this year are the novelist Sarah Hall, the artist Tom Phillips, the travel writer Colin Thubron, literary critic Lila Azam Zanganeh and, in the chair, Baroness Lola Young, a crossbench peer. They considered 154 novels: 144 submissions and another ten that they called in.

They will surely have a difficult job whittling it down to a shortlist of six – I can’t really complain about also-rans this year, can I? Their list pits some big-prize-winning novels against each other: the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (The Underground Railroad), the Goldsmiths Prize winner (Solar Bones), and the winner of the Walter Scott Prize and Costa Book of the Year (Days Without End).

Solar Bones consists of a single, two-hundred-page sentence, Home Fire is a contemporary reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone and the 880-page hardback edition of Paul Auster’s 4321 weighs enough to kill a small child if it falls off a shelf. So it is a heavyweight list, and also very diverse – although Baroness Young claimed they only noticed that afterwards. A happenstance which has occurred almost every year since I began following the Booker in the early 1990’s.

The only downside to such a strong list is that there are very few surprises – except perhaps the inclusion of a novel that isn’t scheduled for publication until November (Elmet by Fiona Mozley) Did somebody move the goalposts?

The shortlist will be announced on September 13th, and the winner of the £50,000 prize on October 17th at the traditional posh bingo ‘do’ at London’s Guildhall, which will be broadcast live on the BBC. Let’s hope they don’t blow the whole budget on a male presenter.

By the way, thanks to paddyjoe for pointing out that Helen Dunmore was longlisted once (in 2010). Occasionally I do think about checking my facts properly before I post, but then Donald Trump pops up on TV to remind me that  facts don’t matter any more anyway.

 

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Waiting For The Cut

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