There was a time not so many years ago that the announcement of the long list for the Man Booker Prize would have me heading straight to the library.
How things change. I’m still interested in the prize but not to the same extent. It’s not the fact that the rules changed to allow American authors but that it meant there were fewer authors from other countries on the list. It became less international.
This year I forgot that today would see the long list for the 2018 prize released. It was only that I happened to be in a bookshop and overheard a customer asking the shop owner for his reactions to the list, that my memory was jogged.
There are a few positives about this year’s list:
- Four debut novels
- Good mixture of genres with the first ever graphic novel to be long listed. Plus a crime novel. This latter isn’t the first time we’ve had a crime novel on the list but it doesn’t happen often. I have to believe that it reflects the influence of Val McDermid who is a judge this year.
- Continued presence of independent presses. These publishers deserve the help that inclusion on prize lists can bring because they so often take a punt where the larger companies play safe.
- Two authors from Wales are included. We’ve had a Welsh author before who actually won the prize (Bernice Rubens in 1970 with The Elected Member) but never two on the same list. Ok the purists among you might say there is only one since unlike Sophie Mackintosh, Belinda Bauer was not born in Wales (in fact the Booker website describes her as English) but she worked in Wales and lives there. Cause for further celebration is that Bauer who is long listed for Snap, lives in my neighbourhood and I see her in our local library. Now that should surely count for a few votes?
Despite that reflection of diversity I’m sad to see that the international flavour of the prize has diminished even further. In a nutshell we have a list made up of:
• Two Canadian authors
• Six authors from the UK
• Two writers from Ireland
• Three writers representing the USA
So yet another year when there is not a single author from Oceania on the list. Strange that Peter Carey, a previous winner, didn’t make it this year.
No author from the Indian sub continent. Last year at least we had one Indian and two UK/Pakistan writers on the list.
But once again no author from any African country.
This is such a disappointing trend. One of the things I loved about the Booker lists in the past was the international flavour because it introduced me to new authors from parts of the world whose literature was generally an unknown quantity to me. The Man Booker International Prize doesn’t entirely fill the gap because that is only for fiction translated into English, so many Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans are not eligible.
Do I have any predictions for this year’s ultimate winner? Short answer is no, I haven’t a clue because I’ve not read any of these books. I do have Bauer’s novel on hold at the library because I’ve enjoyed her previous novels but there is a long waiting list. As good as it’s likely to be, I don’t see it winning purely because the Booker judges would be afraid of being labelled “popularist” if they dared to choose a crime novel. I’d be happy for Donal Ryan to win because I thoroughly enjoyed The Spinning Heart and Michael Ondaatje’s previous winner The English Patient is one of my top 3 Booker favourites across all the years. Is it likely they would choose him for their 50th anniversary. If they did it would be a remarkable feat since he was only recently announced as the winner of the Golden Booker prize. Stranger things have happened with the Booker prize however.
The Man Booker Longlist 2018
- Belinda Bauer (UK) : Snap (Bantam Press): a thriller by an author from Wales
- Anna Burns (UK) : Milkman (Faber & Faber): described as a ‘creepy’ novel set against the background of The Troubles in Ireland
- Nick Drnaso (USA): Sabrina (Granta Books): the first graphic novel to reach the
- Esi Edugyan (Canada): Washington Black (Serpent’s Tail): Edugyan is a previous nominee having been shortlisted in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues
- Guy Gunaratne (UK): In Our Mad And Furious City (Tinder Press): a debut novel
- Daisy Johnson (UK): Everything Under (Jonathan Cape): debut novel
- Rachel Kushner (USA): The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape): a novel partly set in a women’s correctional facility from an author who says her inspiration is Don DeLillo
- Sophie Mackintosh (UK): The Water Cure (Hamish Hamilton): debut dystopian novel from a young Welsh author
- Michael Ondaatje (Canada): Warlight (Jonathan Cape): the only previous winner of the prize to be selected this year
- Richard Powers (USA): The Overstory (William Heinemann): Pulitzer- winning novelist longlisted in 2014 for Orfeo.
- Robin Robertson (UK): The Long Take (Picador): debut novel from a Scottish poet, written partly in verse
- Sally Rooney (Ireland): Normal People (Faber & Faber): the second novel from the winner of the 2017 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award
- Donal Ryan (Ireland): From A Low And Quiet Sea (Doubleday Ireland): Ryan is a previous nominee having been longlisted in 2013 for The Spinning Heart