Man Booker Prize 2016 a six-way contest, shortlist announced
Arguably the literary world's most glamorous, if not defining, recognition, the Man Booker shortlist for this year has just been announced. The 2016 edition saw 155 novels in the fray to begin with, reducing to 13 novels making the longlist and it has now finally come down to six books which have made the shortlist. The lucky wordsmiths? Paul Beatty (The Sellout), Graeme Macrae Burnet (His Bloody Project), Ottessa Moshfegh (Eileen), Deborah Levy (Hot Milk), David Szalay (All that Man Is) and Madeleine Thien (Do Not Say We Have Nothing).
An official statement on the Man Booker site reads: "It is, at first glance, an extraordinarily balanced list: it comprises three men and three women from three countries, two each from Britain (Burnet and Levy), the US (Moshfegh and Beatty), and Canada (Szalay and Thien . . . though Szalay, having been born in Canada but brought up in England is perhaps more British and Canadian). Even those broad nationalities aren't clearcut: Moshfegh's parentage involves a Croatian mother and Iranian father while Levy was born in South Africa. So no national bias to be found there."
Levy's novel is the shortest in length at 218 pages and Thien's the longest at 463. Levy is making her second appearance - she made the shortlist once before in 2012. The rest are first timers though certainly no less in merit. Here's a quick look at the six works and their authors:
Born in Los Angeles in 1962, Beatty is a poet and novelist. He's already published two poetry collections and four novels, including Slumberland, which was translated into French under the same title in 2009. His first novel, White Boy Shuffle, was published in the USA in 1996, translated into French and published under the title American Prophet in 2013.
The Sellout, a dystopian satire about slavery, has a searing element of wit, which The Guardian says "is the book's chief source of momentum." The Guardian goes on to say in its review that the satire deliberately subverts "harmful cultural assumptions that makes this daring and abrasive novel a joy to read - the furthest thing imaginable from a selling out of anyone."
Graeme Macrae Burnet
Born in Kilmarnock in 1967, Burnet studied English Literature at Glasgow University before going on to teach in France, the Czech Republic and Portugal. In a seemingly eclectic choice of further studies, Burnet went on to do an M.Litt in International Security Studies before also taking on a series of television assignments.
His Bloody Project is Burnet's take on the psyche of a killer in a courtroom drama. It's his second novel from the tiny Scottish publisher Saraband. Here's what The Guardian had to say for this one- "It's a psychological thriller masquerading as a slice of true crime; a collection of "found" documents that play lovingly with the traditions of Scottish literature; an artful portrait of a remote crofting community in the 19th century that showcases contemporary theories about class and criminology."
A fiction writer from Boston, Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from Boston. She's already been awarded the Plimpton Prize for her stories in The Paris Review and her novel Eileen, which has been shortlisted, was awarded the 2016 Pen/Hemingway Award as well.
Eileen has at its centre a first-person narrator who the Washington Post describes as "one of the strangest, most messed-up, most pathetic - and yet, in her own inimitable way, endearing - misfits... Trust me, you have never read anything remotely like "Eileen." We'll take the Post's word for it.
Born in 1959 in South Africa, Levy is a prolific playwright, novelist and poet. She was also a Creative Arts Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, between 1989 and 1991, and is a regular contributor to publications like The Independent, The Guardian and the New Statesman.
Hot Milk, the New York Times reviews saying is "essentially a tale of how Sofia [the protagonist] uses strength of will, rigorous self-examination and her anthropological skills to understand and begin to repair things that are holding her back."
One of the youngest writers to make the cut, David Szalay was born in Montreal, Canada in 1974, but moved to the UK the following year, living there ever since. He went to Oxford University and has written a number of radio dramas for the BBC. Szalay has won critical acclaim for his two books, The Innocent (2009) and Spring (2011), besides recognition of his other works in the past - in 2013 he was featured by Granta on their list of 'Britain's 20 Best Young Novelists'.
Szalay takes a careful look at the 21st-century man with all his flaws and finesse in All that Man Is. It's a tale of nine male protagonists at various phases of their lives. From prostitution to tabloid journalism - the book weaves all kinds of worlds.
Another experienced writer, the Vancuover-born Thien is the author of the story collection Simple Recipes (2001), and three novels, Certainty (2006); Dogs at the Perimeter (2011), shortlisted for Berlin's International Literature Prize and winner of the Frankfurt Book Fair's 2015 Liberaturpreis; and, of course the book which landed her the shortlist spot - Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016).
Her books have been translated into 25 languages and she's taught in a number of countries - from Canada, China, Germany, Nigeria, the United States, Zimbabwe, Singapore, and Japan.
However, the book of the hour, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, is about a clutch of musicians studying Western classical music at the Shanghai Conservatory in 60s, and also touches upon the legacy of the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations.