By Elton Gomes
The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2018 has been announced. The list includes Anna Burns, Esi Edugyan, Daisy Johnson, Rachel Kushner, Richard Powers, and Robin Robertson.
The six authors’ names were announced yesterday by the 2018 Chair of judges, Kwame Anthony Appiah, at a press conference at the offices of Man Group, the prize’s sponsor. Appiah noted that each of the novels “is a miracle of stylistic invention in which the language takes centre stage,” the Man Booker committee said on its website.
This year’s shortlist features four women and two men and covers a wide range of subjects – from an 11-year-old slave escaping a Barbados sugar plantation, to a war veteran living with post-traumatic stress disorder. Two novels from independent publishers, Faber & Faber and Serpent’s Tail, have been featured in the list, while three from Penguin Random House and one from Pan Macmillan also feature in the list. Here’s the complete list of the novels and their authors.
Milkman by Anna Burns
Burns’ Milkman is about a young woman being forced to fall in love with an older man during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In her review of Milkman, Claire Kilroy states: “Milkman calls to mind several seminal works of Irish literature. In its digressive, batty narrative voice, it resembles a novel cited by the narrator.” Kilroy adds that though the novel is set in Northern Ireland during the 1970s, it sheds light on other regimes as well. For Kilroy, Milkman invoked medieval witchhunts, the Skripal poisoning, and the #MeToo movement. Kilroy said, “Despite the surreality, everything about this novel rings true.” Burns was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1962, and is the author of two novels, No Bones and Little Constructions. In 2001, Burns was shortlisted for the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Writing for the Washington Post, Ron Charles, in his review, says, “Washington Black is an engrossing hybrid of 19th-century adventure and contemporary subtlety, a rip-roaring tale of peril imbued with our most persistent strife.” Inspired by a true story, Edugyan’s Washington Black is a memoir by a former slave named George Washington Black. The novel is about escape and spans across the brutal cane plantations in Barbados to the icy lands of the Canadian Arctic, and from the mud-filled streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco. Washington and another slave, Titch, manage to escape the island together, but then Washington is forced to make his way alone, in search of freedom. Charles, in the Washington Post, called Edugyan “a magical writer.” Born in Calgary, Canada, in 1977, Edugyan’s novel Half Blood Blues won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker. A writer with Ghanaian roots, Edugyan was a finalist for the Governor-General’s Literary Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Prize, and the Orange Prize.
Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under is a blend of “a deep understanding of character and storytelling sophistication to examine a troubled mother-daughter relationship,” writes Jeff VanderMeer in his review. The novel is about Gretel who goes in search of her mother, putting her past, present, and her future on the line. Words are paramount to Gretel as she works as a lexicographer. She remembers the private vocabulary of her childhood, among other things that could render her search futile. Johnson was born in Paignton, UK, in 1990. Her debut short story collection, Fen, was published in 2016. She has been the winner of the Harper’s Bazaar Short Story Prize, the A.M. Heath Prize, and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
Kushner’s The Mars Room refers to a San Francisco strip club – “the worst and most notorious, the very seediest and most circuslike place there is,” Dwight Garner writes in the New York Times. The novel then shifts focus from a strip club to a more claustrophobic venue: a women’s prison in California’s Central Valley. The novel’s protagonist, Romy, has been given two consecutive life sentences for killing a “sicko” who stalked her. Romy has to come to terms with the hard-knock prison life until a piece of news compels her to escape. Kushner’s debut novel Telex from Cuba was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and a New York Times bestseller. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and the Paris Review. Kushner currently lives in Los Angeles.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
The Overstory has been dubbed as the “most exciting novel about trees”. In the novel, trees summon nine strangers and bring them together in an attempt to save the remaining acres of a forest. The Overstory reveals a resourceful and strangely magnetic world that is almost impossible for us. The author of 12 novels, Powers was born in Illinois, USA, in 1957. He has penned Orfeo (which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014), The Echo Maker, The Time of Our Singing, Galatea 2.2, and Plowing the Dark, among others. Powers has won the National Book Award and has been a Pulitzer Prize and four-time National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.
The Long Take by Robin Robertson
Judge Jacqueline Rose, from the Man Booker committee, said that The Long Take “offers a wholly unique literary voice and form. A verse novel with photographs, it manages to evoke with exceptional vividness aspects of post-World War Two history that are rarely parsed together.” Walker is a D-Day war veteran suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder. Unable to return home, he looks towards America for freedom. Robertson’s The Long Take is about a good man, who has been brutalised by war and haunted by violence but is hell-bent on finding kindness in the world and within himself. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Robertson was born in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1955. He has published five collections of poetry and has received numerous honours, including the Petrarca-Preis, the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and three Forward Prizes.
The Man Booker Prize
The Man Booker Prize was launched in 1969, and it aims to promote the highest quality fiction that has been written in English and published in the United Kingdom. The judges for the Man Booker are chosen from a wide range of disciplines, including critics, writers, and academics, but also extending to poets, politicians, and actors. The prize has been sponsored by the Man Group since 2002. George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo won the award in 2017. The Sellout by Paul Beatty took top honours in 2016.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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