‘Seismic’ Man Booker prize due next week
The Man Booker is a key event in Britain’s cultural life. The winner will be announced live on television on Oct. 25.
It is one of the country’s biggest literary awards and can have a life-changing impact on writers’ sales and bank balances.
“The impact is downright seismic. It does change your status as a writer and the money is fantastic,” Marlon James, who won in 2015 with “A Brief History of Seven Killings”, told Reuters.
“It does have an immense impact on sales. It made the top five of the New York Times bestseller list, which I don’t think it would have before.”
The five judges, who read all the submissions once and the long- and short-listed entries several times, are looking for the year’s best novel written in English and published in Britain.
This year’s shortlist includes works by three Britons, two Americans and a Canadian and the field is still wide open.
“We pick the winner on the same day that it’s announced,” said judge Jon Day, a lecturer in English at King’s College London. “It is going to be a very long and difficult decision.”
SAME OLD ROOM
After reading a book a day for six months in what Day likened to a “posh book club”, the judges cut the pile down to a longlist of 13 then a shortlist of six.
This year’s six are:
The Sellout by American Paul Beatty, Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, His Bloody Project by Scot Graeme Macrae Burnet, Eileen by American Ottessa Moshfegh, All That Man Is by David Szalay and Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Canadian Madeleine Thien.
“The books on our shortlist are united in their interest in the world as it is today. Even those novels set in the past seem to speak to our moment in all sorts of interesting ways,” Day said.
There is no consensus among bookmakers on who will win; but on Friday comparison site Oddschecker put Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing, an epic story of China from the communist revolution to the Tiananmen Square protests, ahead of Levy’s Hot Milk, a tale of identity and sexuality seen through the eyes of a young woman accompanying her mother seeking treatment in a Spanish clinic.
So has winning the prize raised expectations of Marlon James, as he works on his follow-up to “Seven Killings”?
“It can be a game-changer in your life as an author if you want it to,” he said. “You can sometimes get consumed by expectations. But usually when I go back to writing I’m in the same room as when I wrote the last one so I don’t think of that, especially as you won’t take risks if you do.”