LONDON – One of the world’s most prestigious literary awards, this year’s Booker Prize was dominated by debut novelists, the judges announced on Tuesday, while star writers such as Hillary Mantle and Anne Tyler did not make the list.
Four of the six shortlisted books are by first-time authors, three of which are American, while the fourth has dual Scottish and American nationality. Four of the shortlisted books are female.
Nominated debates include Douglas Stuart’s “Suggy Bain”, the violent story of a child growing up in Scotland in the 1980s; And Brandon Taylor’s “Real Life,” about a black gay graduate student navigating life on campus.
Diane Cook’s “The New Wilderness”, was set in a dystopian future in which almost all of the natural world has been destroyed; And Avni Doshi’s “Burnt Sugar”, an artist’s struggle with her aging mother, are the other two debuts on the list.
Announcing the shortlist at a news conference in London, Samir Rahim, one of the authors and judges, said the “surprise number” was a surprise. But he said it was “a red herring” to focus on the issue, as a lot of writers had previous writing experience.
The judges also read the majority of the books presented on the PDF, some of which contained biographical information, Rahim said, so he had no idea who the first novelists were. “You don’t have time to Google for writers,” he said.
In previous years, the Booker shortlist has been dominated by literary heavyweight, with Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and Elif Shafaq all working on last year’s list. In 2018, a group of high-profile writers demanded – unsuccessfully – the Man Booker Foundation prohibits American writers of the bar from being eligible for the award.
This year’s long list of awards, revealed in July, included Hillary Mantle’s “The Mirror and the Light”, the conclusion to her acclaimed trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. And Anne Tyler’s “Redhead by the Road” but neither book made the cut.
“As good as it was, there were six that were better,” said writer Lee Child, one of the judges, when asked at the news conference about Mantle’s omission.
Mantle won the Booker Prize for the first two parts of his Cromwell trilogy; In 2009, for “Wolf Hall,” and in 2012, “Bodies Up the Bodies”.
Two books on the shortlist are by established authors – Mazza Mengist’s “The Shadow King,” and Tsitsi Dungrembega’s “This More Moarable Body” – and both works have received acclaim. In a review for The New York Times, the eponymous serpent called Mengist’s book a “lyrical, remarkable new novel” about Ethiopian women in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War.
“This mournful body,” has been equally praised about a woman struggling to find employment in Zimbabwe. Alexandra Fuller, writing in The New York Times, called it “a masterpiece” of how women “try to imagine and work out of the narrative already set for them.”
Dangrembaga is probably the most well-known name on this list due to its political struggles. In July, he was arrested for participating in anticorruption protests in Zimbabwe.
The shortlist was selected from a long list of 13 books. Originally, 162 books were presented for the award. They were read by Baal judges, including Baal and Lemon Sise, a British poet. “The shortlist of six came together unexpectedly,” said Margaret Busby, a publisher and president of judges.
“We are happy to help these histories of creative humanity reach global audiences,” he said.
The winning title will be unveiled at a ceremony in London on 17 November. Its author will receive £ 50,000, or about $ 64,000.