Indian-origin author among 6 shortlisted for Man Booker Prize

15 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Anne Tyler, Jamaica’s Marlon James on Booker Prize shortlist.

LONDON (AP) — Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Anne Tyler and Jamaica’s Marlon James are among six finalists for the 50,000-pound ($77,000) Booker Prize for fiction.

LONDON — The Man Booker Prize announced its shortlist on Tuesday, winnowing the field of candidates for the prestigious book award from 13 down to six. There are two Americans on the list: Anne Tyler, nominated for A Spool of Blue Thread, about a Baltimore family (what else?) and Hanya Yanagihara, nominated for her critically acclaimed second novel, A Little Life, about four young men who move to New York after college. They haven’t found space on their shortlist, announced today, for The Green Road by the former Booker winner Anne Enright or for Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family. Two of the contenders exceed 700 pages, while a third one just shy of 500, succeed in highlighting, rather brilliantly, the concise wonder of Briton Tom McCarthy’s playful anthropological meditation, Satin Island.

The list is rounded out by The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma, set in the author’s native Nigeria; Satin Island by Brit Tom McCarthy, about a “corporate anthropologist” data mapping the world; and The Year of the Runaways, about Indian immigrants in England, by Sunjeev Sahota, also from the UK. Anne Enright, an Irish author who won the award in 2007 for “The Gathering,” and who was considered by some to be a favorite for this year’s prize for her novel “The Green Road,” was not included on the shortlist. “Lila,” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson, also failed to make the shortlist. McCarthy’s typical eschewal of character development accentuates the intensity, but his crisp clean prose is stimulating, his concepts original and his visual imagery powerful.” “It was worth persevering for before the end Sahota proves a wonderfully evocative storyteller, taking us into the heart of the world of illegal migration and how it shapes lives. Also deserving some celebration is the inclusion of Marlon James with his ambitious, multi-voiced, violent exploration of the attempted assassination of reggae king Bob Marley, A Brief History of Seven Killings. A picture of modern immigration that reads like the real thing.” “Marlon James’ writing can be at once punchy and lyrical; can alternate strange, dreamy poetry with visceral action; and can bring persuasive life to a kaleidoscopic range of characters.

The move to open the prize to international authors raised concerns in Britain that local authors would be pushed out of the race by Americans — concerns that some considered justified when five American authors made this year’s long list, versus three Britons. James is the first Jamaican to be short listed for the prize and he hails from a tradition of writers who approach language as if it is there to be sung or at least chanted. Moreover, it showcases the extraordinary capabilities of a writer whose importance can scarcely be questioned, even if his mode of address will exclude some.” “Questions of ownership and belonging are raised throughout the novel: the shock of a concealed parentage, the manipulations in relationships, be they with children, lovers, properties. Last year’s prize went to the Australian novelist Richard Flanagan for “The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” about an Australian surgeon who is captured by the Japanese during World War II.

Obioma’s novel lacks the rhythmic grace of Okri in what was to prove a career-defining novel, yet The Fishermen will beguile with its mix of mythology and astute observation. The trials faced by this lone family can be read as an allegory of those played out on the larger social and political stage in a post-independence Nigeria as brother turned on brother. A strikingly accomplished debut.” “Just about every one of A Little Life’s 700 pages is saturated with trauma: child abuse, rape, domestic violence, dysfunctional families, addiction, self-harm, suicide, grief. Laila Lalami’s Pulitzer finalist, The Moor’s Account, is a remarkable historical novel inspired by the disastrous1527 Narvaez expedition to the New World, which ended with the death of all but four of the original contingent of 300.

The novel, which oozes a hothouse prose parodying Donna Tartt’s stylistic excesses, is about a subject even more vile than murder, the sexual abuse of children. It had been a useful skill, this persistent and unshatterable somnambulism, and it had protected him, but then that ability, like his ability to forget, had abandoned him as well and he was never to acquire it again.” Ironically, Yanagihara’s first novel The People in the Trees (2013), which was nominated for the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, is a far better novel. In fairness to everyone, although I am hoping Satin Island will win, my more commonsensical side suggested that Anne Enright would actually win this year to become the fourth double winner in the prize’s history. Tyler is so supreme that she can ease her tale along and it is fascinating to discover that by far the strongest image occurs on the closing page as she returns to a motif which appears deceptively harmless; Halloween decorations. Recalling the many years when eager children waited to see the familiar decorations being put, finally there has come a time when “the filmy-skirted ghosts frolicked and danced on the porch with nobody left to watch”.

Robinson is, as is obvious, an artist and although Lila is not as good as Gilead and in fact Robinson has never matched her first novel Housekeeping (1980), there is something rather perverse about how the US writers have fared on this shortlist. Lila would have been a dramatic presence and an example of the formal splendour which shapes the finest of US writing, the quiet dignity that gets overshadowed by hype. Yet the omission of Robinson and Enright leave the way open for Satin Island, of which I have already applauded for being original, splendid, a bit bonkers and indicative of fiction’s limitless powers. It is about everything and nothing and sums up where we are at this moment in time and space; nothing on the short list approaches its verve and urgency.

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