Ishiguro and Kneale on Whitbread shortlist

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Kazuo Ishiguro and Matthew Kneale, defeated by Margaret Atwood for the Booker Prize last week, have found themselves shortlisted against each other again - this time for the Whitbread Prize.

Kazuo Ishiguro and Matthew Kneale, defeated by Margaret Atwood for the Booker Prize last week, have found themselves shortlisted against each other again - this time for the Whitbread Prize.

Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans and Kneale's English Passengers are both on the five-strong shortlist for the Whitbread Novel Award. The other shortlisted writers are Will Self, for How The Dead Live, Jill Dawson for Fred & Edie and Anne Enright for What Are You Like?

In the novel category, the judges, Sally Beauman, a novelist, Rachel Holmes, the managing editor of Amazon.co.uk, and Alex Linklater, the deputy arts editor at the Evening Standard, said that the quality of the shortlist had been so high that it had been extended from its usual number.

"The diversity of the novels submitted this year was intriguing and pleasing, and is reflected in the final shortlist of five, rather than four, very different novels, all of outstanding quality," they said.

Ishiguro and Kneale now become hot contenders for the overall Book of the Year award. Of Ishiguro's book, a tale about a detective investigating his own youth, which had been widely tipped to win the Booker, the judges said that it had turned the classic detective story on its head. Kneale's book, in turn, was described as a "technical marvel".

But they will not go unchallenged. Zadie Smith, whose failure to be shortlisted for the Booker caused a stir in literary circles, appears on the Whitbread shortlist for best first novel, for her highly acclaimed White Teeth. More than 70 books were entered for the category - the highest number yet.

Smith's book was described by the judges, Minette Walters and Penny Vincenzi, both novelists, and Paul Davies, the assistant features editor at The Daily Telegraph, as "an extraordinarily confident debut, exploding with energy. White Teeth is a landmark novel for multicultural Britain as well as a superb portrait of contemporary London. Raising important questions about family, race, science and history, White Teeth is a book to make each of us think about where and how we live."

The other shortlisted authors for the first novel award are Michel Faber for Under the Skin, Jo-Ann Goodwin for Danny Boy and Laura Hird for Born Free.

The £40,000 prize fund also includes categories for poetry, biography and children's books. Ian Kershaw returns to the biography shortlist with the second volume of Hitler. The first volume was nominated in 1998. This year he is up against Tim Hilton's John Ruskin - The Latter Years, Claire Harman's Fanny Burney and Lorna Sage's Bad Blood - A Memoir.

The shortlist for children's books includes Heaven Eyes by David Almond; Arthur: the Seeing Stone, by Kevin Crossley-Holland; Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin and Troy by Adele Geras.

The poetry award shortlist includes John Burnside for The Asylum Dance, Michael Donaghy for Conjure, R F Langley for Collected Poems, Maurice Riordan for Floods and Anne Stevenson for Granny Scarecrow.

The category winners will be announced on 4 January next year, apart from the Children's Book and Book of the Year, both of which will be announced at a televised ceremony on 23 January.

Category winners will each receive £3,500. The winner of the overall Book of the Year award will be awarded a further £22,500.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the Whitbread, one of Britain's biggest literary prizes. The 1999 Book of the Year award went to Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf - the second time he had won - over J K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The prize was hit by controversy over the appointment of Jerry Hall, a model, as a judge - a reaction her supporters later claimed was sexist and bore no relation to her intellectual capacity.

She later silenced her critics by publishing a list of her favourite books, which included works by Pushkin and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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