The Fisherman by Nigeria’s Chigozie Obioma has been included in the 2015 longlist for the Man Booker prize, the UK’s leading award for fiction, along with a number of highly recommended novels by UK and US writers.
The three novels by UK-born writers on the 13-strong list are Satin Island by Tom McCarthy, The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan and The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota. In addition to McCarthy and O’Hagan, both of whom have been shortlisted before, the longlist also includes a previous winner in the Irish author Anne Enright, recognised this year for The Green Road.
The £50,000 prize, previously awarded to authors from the UK and Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe, was opened in 2014 to all novels originally in English and published in the UK. Fears that British novelists would be crowded out were not borne out in the award’s first year under the new rules.
The most celebrated writers among the 2015 US contingent are Marilynne Robinson, longlisted for Lila, the third in her Gilead series, and Anne Tyler, for A Spool of Blue Thread. Also included are Did You Ever Have a Family, a debut novel by the literary agent Bill Clegg, Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account and Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.
Michael Wood, the literary academic who chairs the 2015 panel of judges, said: “The range of different performances and forms of these novels is amazing. All of them do something exciting with the language they have chosen to use.”
Completing the list were Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings (Jamaica), Anuradha Roy’s Sleeping on Jupiter (India), and two more debuts, and Anna Smaill’s The Chimes (New Zealand).
The longlist was broadly welcomed by critics. “It’s interesting and unpredictable,” said Sarah Churchwell, professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of East Anglia. “On the basis of the books here that I’ve read, I’d say the judges have done an admirable job.”
John Sutherland, professor of English at University College London, concurred: “Prizes do make mistakes but it looks to me like it would be very hard to make one with this list — there doesn’t seem to be a potential winner who would be lamented.” He did, however, regret the absence of Colm Tóibín’s latest novel, Nora Webster.
Other notable absences include The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, published in March, and Jonathan Franzen’s Purity and Salman Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, both due out in September.
Asked about the representation of British writers, Professor Wood expressed sympathy that there were now more contenders for the same number of slots. But he welcomed last year’s rule-change because it was “coherent and clear”, pointing out that national status is in any case an increasingly blurred category. On the 2015 longlist, for example, Obioma and James are based in the US, while Lalami was born in Morocco.
Alongside Prof Wood, this year’s judging panel comprises the editor and critic Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, the poet John Burnside, the critic Sam Leith and the biographer Frances Osborne.
The shortlist will be announced on September 15 and the prize awarded at a dinner in London’s Guildhall on October 13.
Source : businessdayonline.com