The 13 novels longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize have just been announced. As expected, the new rules mean there is a heavy presence by American authors. Surprisingly though these are not the big hitters we were expecting – Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch didn’t make it even though it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction earlier this year. Dave Eggers didn’t get listed either, though perhaps that’s not surprising since the critical response to Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? was, shall we say, lukewarm. The best known name among the Americans is Karen Jay Fowler with We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Based on my experience of reading her best selling title, The Jane Austen Book Club I am surprised to find her on the list and honestly can’t see her getting any further. Delighted though to see Neel Mukherjee on the list with The Lives of Others – I reviewed this recently and enjoyed it so much I nominated it for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Award. Hope he gets through to the next round..
Disappointingly few Commonwealth writers make it this year, in distinct contrast to the 2013 award longlist. Instead we have six novels from Britain, one from Australia, one from Ireland plus the five from USA.
Chairman of the judges AC Grayling says that the lack of Commonwealth writers on the list was a reflection of the choices made by publishers when they decided what to submit. The Daily Telegraph quotes him as follows:.
“It looks as though the publishers have put forward a number of American authors slightly at the expense of Commonwealth writers.
“But I do think this is something that will adjust itself very quickly. It’s almost certainly the publishers feeling their way with American authors and I’m quite sure that will right itself,” he said.
That comment doesn’t quite stack up for me since the press release issued by the Man Booker team says there were 31 Commonwealth submissions this year compared with 43 last year. Ok, it’s a drop but not a big falling off. The key here is however that 44 titles were entered which wouldn’t have been eligible until the rule change so we are certainly seeking a skewing of the list. I hope Grayling proves right and this should settle down in future years since one of the most valuable aspects for me of the Booker was the way it highlighted lesser known authors from countries whose literature doesn’t get much visibiity otherwise.
The Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist
Joshua Ferris (USA) To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
Richard Flanagan (Australia): The narrow Road to the Deep North
Karen Joy Fowler (USA): We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Siri Hustvedt (USA): The Blazing World
Howard Jacobson (British): J
Paul Kingsnorth – The Wake. A novel published through crowd-funding
David Mitchell (Britain): The Bone Clocks
Neel Mukherjee (British): The Lives of Others. Although born in Calcutta, the Booker lists him as British
David Nicholls (British): Us
Joseph O’Neill (USA): The Dog
Richard Powers (USA) Orfeo
Ali Smith (British): How To Be Both
Niall Williams (Eire) – History of the Rain
I’m off to the library now to see which of these I can get. If last year’s experience is anything to judge by there won’t be that many available.