In Review

Booker prize 2014: who is going to win?

Mukherjee's ambitious saga is a firm favourite for the Man Booker prize, but Jacobson's sinister novel is in with a chance

Neel Mukherjee is widely tipped to be the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, announced tomorrow night by the Duchess of Cornwall at a ceremony in London. 

The British author of The Lives of Others is both the bookies' and critics' favourite, according to The Guardian.

"The bookies are often wrong about the Booker," writes Stephanie Bunbury for the Sydney Morning Herald, "but I think they're on the money here".

While Mukerjee's heartbreaking family saga set in Calcutta looks set to take the top prize, Howard Jacobson could surprise with his sinister dystopian novel, J.

"It's a dark and deadly serious portrait of a post-apocalyptic society, light years from his funny novels; but thrillingly written and the most ambitious work on the shortlist," according to the Mail on Sunday's John Walsh.

The Chicago Tribune's Jenni Laidman agrees. "For two-thirds of this book, expect to be lost, puzzled and irritated," she writes. "But read it anyway".

At 72, a win would make Jacobson the oldest recipient of the prestigious award.

In search of another first, Ali Smith could become the first Scottish woman to win for her daring novel How to be Both. "Smith would be a bold choice," concedes the Daily Telegraph's Sameer Rahim. "But last year's winner, The Luminaries, was equally experimental, so don't bet against it.

This is the first year the prize has not been restricted to authors from the UK, Ireland, the Commonwealth and Zimbabwe, which led to several US authors appearing on the longlist.

However, only two made it onto the shortlist; Joshua Ferris with To Rise Again at a Decent Hour and Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. The two US writers "together represent the obligatory rattling-good-read end of the Booker spectrum, which is not usually the winning end," says Bunbury.

But whoever wins, "there is no dud in this shortlist", argues Rahim. "Whether funny or traumatic (or indeed both) each one holds its own."

The 2014 Man Booker Prize shortlist in full
  • How to be Both by Ali Smith
  • J by Howard Jacobson
  • The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
  • To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler



Man Booker longlist 2014: UK and US authors dominate

23 July

The Man Booker Prize longlist was announced today, amid accusations that writers from Commonwealth countries have been overlooked now that American authors are eligible, the BBC reports.

The judges selected 13 novels. Six are by Britons, four by Americans, and two Irish writers and one Australian are nominated.

The novels by "heavyweight" British authors include The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, How to Be Both by Ali Smith and J by Howard Jacobson.

Chair of judges, the philosopher AC Grayling told The Guardian that 2014 had been "a vintage year".

"They are very ambitious books and some of them tackle big issues of the day," he said. "There's a lot of perceptiveness and wisdom in these books, some of them are quite moving and all of them are very difficult to put down once you get into them."

This is the first year the prestigious literary prize has not been restricted to authors from the UK, Ireland, the Commonwealth and Zimbabwe. The criteria were widened last year to include books by authors from anywhere in the world that were written in English and published in the UK.

The decision to include books by authors from all over the world "rankled some purists", according to the New York Times. And although the majority of authors are still from UK, the rest come from America, Ireland and Australia, and there are none from Africa, Asia or the Middle East. 

Sameer Rahim, of the Daily Telegraph, says it is a "shame [that] in trying to open up, the Man Booker Prize ends up excluding voices from outside the Anglo-American centre". 

also nobody from asia or africa at all?? people were worried that the new rules would mean british writers would be ~~pushed out

 

— charlotte geater (@tambourine) July 23, 2014

but that's obviously not happened. instead, the judges have just gone for lots of mainstream, established, white, anglo-american writers

 

— charlotte geater (@tambourine) July 23, 2014

The announcement also upset several feminist writers who noticed a shortage of women on the longlist.

More Americans than women. More books published by Random/Penguin than women. More authors named David or Richard than women. #ManBooker

 

— JT Welsch (@jtwelsch) July 23, 2014

But the judges said they chose the books purely on merit, "not the nationality, gender or reputation of the writers", the Guardian reports. They also said it was down to publishers who had "tried to test the water" by submitting more novels by American authors.

The six judges have until 9 September to produce a shortlist of six authors, with the winner being announced on October 14th.

The 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist in full
  • To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
  • J by  Howard Jacobson
  • The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  • The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
  • Us by David Nicholls
  • The Dog by Joseph O'Neill
  • Orfeo by Richard Powers
  • How to be Both by Ali Smith
  • History of the Rain by Niall Williams

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