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Sunday June 23, 2024

Booker Prize shortlist offers ‘terrors’ and ‘pleasures’

By AFP
September 22, 2023

LONDON: The shortlist for the 2023 Booker Prize was announced in London on Thursday, with the final six books offering “terrors, pleasures, joys and consolations.”

Twice-shortlisted novelist Esi Edugyan, who chairs the judging panel, said the chosen novels “offer a full range of human experience” that “transport us not just outside reality but outside the common language of the everyday.”

The prestigious literary prize is open to works of fiction by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland between October 1, 2022 and September 30, 2023. The final list is made up of authors from the US, Ireland, Kenya and Canada.

The six novels were drawn from 158 works, which were then reduced to a 13-strong longlist. Among them is Irish author Paul Murray´s “The Bee Sting”, which looks at the role of fate in the travails of one family in a tragicomic saga.

Kenyan writer Chetna Maroo´s moving debut novel “Western Lane” about grief and sisterhood, which follows the story of a teenage girl for whom squash is life, also makes the cut. Taking a dark turn, dystopian work “Prophet Song”, set in Dublin as Ireland descends into tyranny, earned Paul Lynch his first appearance on the Booker shortlist.

The novels were selected by a five-person panel, which included actor and writer Adjoa Andoh, poet Mary Jean Chan, professor of English at Columbia University James Shapiro and actor and comedian Robert Webb.

The panel also selected “If I Survive You” by US writer Jonathan Escoffery, which follows a Jamaican family and their chaotic new life in Miami.

He was joined by fellow US author, Paul Harding, whose “This Other Eden” -- inspired by historical events -- tells the story of Apple Island, an enclave off the US coast where society´s misfits flock and build a new home.

Canada is also represented on the shortlist in the shape of “Study for Obedience” by Sarah Bernstein. The unsettling novel explores the themes of prejudice and guilt through a suspicious narrator.

The winner, to be announced in London on November 26, will receive a £50,000 ($69,000, 59,000 euros) prize and a huge boost in their profile. Last year´s winner was Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka, whose work “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” tells the story of a war photographer who wakes up dead in what seems to be a cosmic visa office.