I’m never sure what to make of longlists for literary prizes – it’s quite a chasm between being on a list and winning a prize, even when the list is the shortlist. But for what it’s worth the longlist for the GPB 50,000 Man Booker Prize was announced yesterday, in London.
First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker is a leading prize for high quality literary fiction written in English. Authors writing about the legacy of colonialism on the Indian Sub-Continent have often been noticed by the judges, most famously Salman Rushdie won in 1981, for Midnight’s Children.
This year’s longlist of 13 books, whittled down from 156 up for consideration, was selected by a panel of five judges chaired by Michael Wood, an English historian and broadcaster. He said: “We had a great time choosing this list. Discussions weren’t always peaceful, but they were always very friendly. The submissions were extraordinary. The longlist could have been twice as long, but we’re more than happy with our final choice. 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.”
Until recently, the prize was open only to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. But it is now open to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK – this means Americans are eligible, which has caused lots of grumbling amongst authors, agents and publishing professionals in the UK.
Anuradha Roy made the list for Sleeping on Jupiter. This is set in Jarmuli, a city of temples, and a centre of healing on the edge of the ocean. Nomi, a young girl, is taken from her family and finds herself in an ashram, overseen by a charismatic guru. But Guruji's charm masks a predatory menace, and the young girl faces danger beyond her understanding. Twenty years later, Nomi returns to Jarmuli with a documentary film crew. All has changed in a town that she no longer knows, as tourists and market traders bustle, banter and chase their dreams amidst the temples of her youth. Seeking the truth about what happened to her and her family, Nomi finds herself chasing shadows in a town that has reinvented itself. But when she returns to the ashram that haunts her dreams, she discovers some scars cannot be washed away.
Sunjeev Sahota, a British author of Indian descent, is also on the list for The Year of the Runaways. This also cuts between childhood and the present day. Thirteen young men live in a house in a town in Northern England, each is in flight from India and is in desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar; and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband's clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.
The shortlist of six books will be announced in September. The 2015 winner will then be announced on Tuesday 13 October in London.
The 2015 longlist in full
Bill Clegg (US) - Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape)
Anne Enright (Ireland) - The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)
Marlon James (Jamaica) - A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
Laila Lalami (US) - The Moor's Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)
Tom McCarthy (UK) - Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) - The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
Andrew O’Hagan (UK) - The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)
Marilynne Robinson (US) - Lila (Virago)
Anuradha Roy (India) - Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
Sunjeev Sahota (UK) - The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
Anna Smaill (New Zealand) - The Chimes (Sceptre)
Anne Tyler (US) - A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)Hanya Yanagihara (US) - A Little Life (Picador)