Banned at home, lauded abroad: Vladimir Sorokin and Yan Lianke make Man Booker shortlist


Two authors who have had books banned in their own countries have been named on the shortlist of the Man Booker International Prize.

Vladimir Sorokin, the Russian novelist and dramatist, and Chinese writer Yan Lianke are among the 10 writers vying for the biennial award for fiction. Also on the shortlist for the prize is Marilynne Robinson, an American author who won the Orange Prize for Women’s Fiction in 2009 for her novel Home.

The announcement was made at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival by Sir Christopher Ricks, chairman of this year’s judges and Professor of Humanities at Boston University.

“We put together this list from our own reading and some tips from others,” Sir Christopher said. “And 18 months of preparation time makes it possible to do a lot of reading.”

The Man Booker International, like the Nobel Prize for Literature, looks at a writer’s body of work rather than an individual novel. Sir Christopher doesn’t claim these 10 to be definitive. “Anybody who thinks this list is absolutely right... would be daft,” he said.

The winner will be announced in May in London.

Though his work was initially banned, Sorokin is now very popular in Russia. He won the Russian Booker Prize in 2001 and is best known in English translation for The Ice Trilogy and Day Of The Oprichnik.

When excerpts of Yan Lianke’s To Serve The People appeared in prominent Chinese literary magazine Hua Cheng (Flower City) in 2005, censors forced the publication to recall all 40,000 copies of that edition, and the book was pushed underground. It has been compared by the Booker judges to DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover for its portrayal of a woman whose older lover only becomes aroused by her smashing images of Chairman Mao.

Also on the list is Marie NDiaye, a French novelist who won the country’s prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2009, and India’s veteran writer UR Anathamurthy.