Paul Beatty, Deborah Levy, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Ottessa Moshfegh, David Szalay and Madeleine Thien are announced as the six shortlisted authors for the 2016 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Their names were announced by 2016 Chair of judges, Dr. Amanda Foreman, at a press conference at the offices of sponsor Man Group yesterday (Tuesday).
The judges remarked on the role of the novel in exploring culture and in tackling unfamiliar and challenging subjects, and on the shortlisted authors’ willingness to play with language and form. The shortlist features a variety of voices, from new names to award winners. The books cover a diverse range of subjects, from murder in 19th century Scotland to classical music in Revolutionary China.
In the third year that the prize has been open to writers of any nationality, the shortlist is an even split between two British, two US and two Canadian writers. Three novels from Penguin Random House are shortlisted alongside three from small, independent publishers.
2016 Man Booker Shortlist
Paul Beatty (US) - 'The Sellout' (Oneworld)
A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, 'The Sellout' showcases a comic genius at the top of his game.
Born in Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, the narrator of 'The Sellout' spent his childhood as the subject in his father's racially charged psychological studies. He is told that his father’s work will lead to a memoir that will solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a drive-by shooting, he discovers there never was a memoir. All that’s left is a bill for a drive-through funeral.
What’s more, Dickens has literally been wiped off the map to save California from further embarrassment. Fuelled by despair, the narrator sets out to right this wrong with the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.
In his trademark absurdist style, which has the uncanny ability to make readers want to both laugh and cry, 'The Sellout' is an outrageous and outrageously entertaining indictment of our time.
Deborah Levy (UK) - 'Hot Milk' (Hamish Hamilton)
Two women arrive in a Spanish village - a dreamlike place caught between the desert and the ocean - seeking medical advice and salvation. One of the strangers suffers from a mysterious illness: spontaneous paralysis confines her to a wheelchair, her legs unusable. The other, her daughter Sofia, has spent years playing the reluctant detective in this mystery, struggling to understand her mother's illness.
Surrounded by the oppressive desert heat and the mesmerising figures who move through it, Sofia waits while her mother undergoes the strange programme of treatments invented by Dr Gomez. Searching for a cure to a defiant and quite possibly imagined disease, ever more entangled in the seductive, mercurial games of those around her, Sofia finally comes to confront and reconcile the disparate fragments of her identity.'Hot Milk' is a labyrinth of violent desires, primal impulses, and surreally persuasive internal logic. Examining female rage and sexuality, Deborah Levy's dazzling new novel explores the strange and monstrous nature of motherhood, testing the bonds of parent and child to breaking point.
Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK) - 'His Bloody Project' (Contraband)
A brutal triple murder in a remote northern crofting community in 1869 leads to the arrest of Roderick Macrae, a seventeen-year-old from the village. There s no question that he is guilty, but why did he commit the crime? Was he insane? Whose account should we believe? And will he hang? A riveting drama.
Ottessa Moshfegh (US) – 'Eileen' (Jonathan Cape)
The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop. Trapped between caring for her alcoholic father and her job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, she tempers her dreary days with dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, her nights and weekends are filled with shoplifting and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes.
When the beautiful, charismatic Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counsellor at the prison, Eileen is enchanted, unable to resist what appears to be a miraculously budding friendship. But soon, Eileen’s affection for Rebecca will pull her into a crime that far surpasses even her own wild imagination.
David Szalay (Canada-UK) - 'All That Man Is' (Jonathan Cape)
Nine men. Each of them at a different stage of life, each of them away from home, and each of them striving – in the suburbs of Prague, beside a Belgian motorway, in a cheap Cypriot hotel – to understand just what it means to be alive, here and now.
Tracing an arc from the spring of youth to the winter of old age, All That Man Is brings these separate lives together to show us men as they are – ludicrous and inarticulate, shocking and despicable; vital, pitiable, hilarious, and full of heartfelt longing. And as the years chase them down, the stakes become bewilderingly high in this piercing portrayal of 21st-century manhood.
Madeleine Thien (Canada) - 'Do Not Say We Have Nothing' (Granta Books)
In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-Ming.
As her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-Ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao's ascent to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989. It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai struggle during China's relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to. Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-Ming - and for Marie.
Written with exquisite intimacy, wit and moral complexity, 'Do Not Say We Have Nothing' magnificently brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy, which still resonates for a new generation. It is a gripping evocation of the persuasive power of revolution and its effects on personal and national identity, and an unforgettable meditation on China today.
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