‘Great Circle,’ ‘Bewilderment’ Among Booker Prize Finalists

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This year’s shortlist includes novels by Nadifa Mohamed, Patricia Lockwood, Damon Galgut and Anuk Arudpragasam. A winner will be named in November.

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LONDON – Patricia Lockwood, Richard Powers and Maggie Shipstead are among the six novelists selected this year for the Booker Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes.

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Powers is a finalist for her novel “Bewildrement” about a widowed fortune teller struggling to care for her son; Shipstead for “Great Circle,” an epic about a woman who dedicates her life to flying and a Hollywood actress set to play her onscreen; And for Lockwood “No One Is Talking About This”, his first novel written partly on the Internet.

Other authors and books to make the shortlist, announced at an online news conference on Tuesday, are Anuk Arudpragasam for “A Passage North,” about the death of a caregiver set against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s civil war; Nadifa Mohamed for “The Fortune Men” about abortion of justice in Wales; and Damon Galgut for “The Promise,” about a white family in post-apartheid South Africa.

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Some high-profile novels of the year, including Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Clara and the Sun,” made the 13-strong long list in July, but were not among the six finalists.

When asked Tuesday about the books that failed to shortlist, Maya Jasnoff, historian and chair of the Booker Prize judges, said: “It’s a very difficult process.” “What I can say is that every book is judged on its merits.”

The six shortlisted novels have little in common, but Jasnoff said they all resonated in a year in which many readers were forced to stay at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The novels are steeped, she said – “stories you can be absorbed in, voices that pop up inside your head, which are quite reflective of the experience of reading in lockdown.” He added that many are also attached to death, which “feels quite poignant and prudent in this disastrous year.”

The Booker Prize is awarded each year to the best novel written in English and published in the UK or Ireland. In 2019, Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood shared the prize, while Douglas Stuart won last year for “Shuggy Bane”, his first novel about a gay child with an alcoholic mother in Scotland.

This year the finalists were split equally between women and men. “The Promise” is Galgut’s third book to make the Booker shortlist after “In a Strange Room” in 2010 and “The Good Doctor” in 2003. “Bewildrement” is Powers’ second appearance on the shortlist after being named “The Overstory”. Finalist in 2018.

Three of the finalists are American, and only one is British, which may cause panic in some quarters in the UK. In 2018, authors including Zadie Smith and Ian McEwan called for the Booker Prize Foundation to reverse a 2014 decision that made any novel written in English and published in the UK eligible for the prize. It was previously limited to writers from Britain, Ireland, Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth.

Booker Prize Foundation director Gabby Wood said on Tuesday she did not think it would be appropriate to revert the prize to its old rules, especially since it would be based on the borders of the former Kingdom of Britain. “It just doesn’t seem like a conversation we should have,” she said.

“I find it very remarkable in the 21st century that people are talking about the former British Empire as an appropriate container for thinking about literature,” Jasnoff said.

The judges will now re-read the shortlisted books before deciding on the winner to be announced at a ceremony in London on 3 November. Its author will get 50,000 pounds, or about $ 69,000.

The shortlist is:

  • Anuk Arudpragasam, “A Passage North”

  • Damon Galgut, “The Promise”

  • Patricia Lockwood, “Nobody’s Talking About This”

  • Nadifa Mohamed, “The Fortune Men”

  • Richard Powers, “Panic”

  • Maggie Shipstead, “Great Circle”

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