July 16, 2024

Shortlist announced for annual Booker literature prize includes two first-time novels among the six finalists.

Novels from Canada, Ireland, the United States, and the United Kingdom that explore families, communities and a world in crisis make up the six finalists for the prestigious Booker Prize for fiction.

The Shortlist announced on Thursday for the 50,000 British pounds ($61,400) award includes Canadian author Sarah Bernstein’s absurdist allegory Study for Obedience; US writer Jonathan Escoffery’s If I Survive You, a set of interlinked stories about a Jamaican family in Miami; and Pulitzer Prize-winning US novelist Paul Harding’s historical novel This Other Eden, based on a real interracial island community in the 19th century.

Two Irish writers are on the Shortlist: Paul Lynch, for the post-democratic dystopia, Prophet Song; and Paul Murray, for the tragicomic family saga, The Bee Sting.

The finalists are rounded out by UK writer Chetna Maroo’s Western Lane, the story of a young athlete grappling with a family tragedy.

The best-known authors among the 13 semi-finalists announced last month, Ireland’s Sebastian Barry and Malaysia’s Tan Twan Eng, did not make the cut.

Last year’s winner was Shehan Karunatilaka for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, a satirical “afterlife noir” set during Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war.

Canadian writer Esi Edugyan, who chairs the judging panel, said the books contain “terrors”, but also “pleasures, sorrows, joys, consolations”.

They also reflect a world that’s pretty bleak, noted a fellow judge, Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro.

“We read quite a few COVID novels, we read quite a few dystopian novels, we read quite a few dark novels,” Shapiro said. “Some of the excellent novels seemed to reflect the grim times in which I certainly feel we live,” he said.

“We turn to creative writers to see more deeply into the crises that we face,” he added.

The judging panel of Edugyan, Shapiro, actor-director Adjoa Andoh, poet Mary Jean Chan and actor-comedian Robert Webb read 163 novels to come up with a group of finalists that is strong on new voices.

If I Survive You and Western Lane are both first novels.

Booker organisers said all the authors have won acclaim and prizes, even if they are not household names.

“They are not unknown authors,” said Gaby Wood, chief executive of the Booker Prize Foundation. “They are just unknown to the Booker.”

The six authors include two women and four men – three of them, by chance, named Paul.

This year’s winner will be announced on November 26 at a ceremony in London. Founded in 1969, the Booker Prize is open to novels from any country published in the UK and Ireland.

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