JM Coetzee in line for Man Booker hat-trick
The South African writer and twice Booker prize winner, JM Coetzee, could make literary history if he wins a third time with his ficitional memoir, which was today selected on the annual award shortlist. No other Booker winner has performed a hat-trick in the prize’s 41-year history.
His novel features in a shortlist dominated by some of the literary world’s most revered figures including the bookmaker’s favourite, Hilary Mantel, as well as AS Byatt.
Jim Naughtie, the journalist and chair of the judges who revealed the selection, today praised the high quality of writing on a shortlist of multi-award winning authors and said that in former years some works which had to be eliminated by the judges at this stage would have made it onto the shortlist, such was the calibre of contenders vying for the £50,000 award. He said the final decision had been an "intense" one with difficult choices made over the final two books.
"Yes, in former years, some of the (13 longlisted) books would have made it on the shortlist. We had a formidable longlist. The last stage of the shortlist where we had seven or eight books was like chipping off the last bit of granite. It was very, very hard. I can honestly say I am looking forward to reading all six books again," he said.
Coetzee, a Nobel laureate who previously won the Booker for Life and Times of Michael K in 1983 and Disgrace in 1999, has been nominated for Summertime, based in the 1970s. Byatt, who won the prize for Possession in 1990, is this time up for her turn of the 20th century epic, The Children’s Book; Sarah Waters, who has been shortlisted twice before, has been selected with her post-war British ghost story, The Little Stranger; and Adam Foulds, who was widely rumoured to have come close to winning last year’s Costa prize with his first book of poems, The Broken Word, is up with his first novel about the 19th century poet, John Clare, called The Quickening Maze. Mantel, whose work has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize, is the bookmaker’s favourite to win with Wolf Hall, about Henry VIII’s adviser, Thomas Cromwell, and Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room, the sixth selected novel which is set in the Nazi era, is considered to be the only "surprise" choice on the list.
Two of the highest profile absentees included Irishmen Colm Toibin and William Trevor, both previous Booker prize nominees who were predicted to have breezed onto the shortlist.
Naughtie observed that the list was comprised of books of "historical fiction" ranging from the times of Henry VIII to post-war Britain and Nazi Czechoslovakia but said that that had been coincidental.
"We were certainly not promoting various forms of historical fiction so it was unconscious on our part. But it is interesting to consider that the fiction on the list does not take place in the present day, and it’s an interesting question to ponder why," said Naughtie.
The shortlist was very different from last year’s selection which included two debut novelists, one of whom, Aravind Adiga, won with The White Tiger.
Meanwhile, the longlisted book Me Cheeta, a spoof autobiography of a chimpanzee turned Hollywood star on the Tarzan movies, written by the debut author James Lever, was praised by Naughtie as a "brilliant piece of invention". He would not be drawn on whether it had been among the final two contenders which did not make it on the shortlist.
It had been the rank outsider but outsiders have proven the establishment wrong in previous years: Adiga was considered the wildcard last year. DBC Pierre who won the prize with Vernon God Little in 2003, and Yann Martel, with The Life of Pi, in 2002, were similarly regarded as outsiders.
The prize has changed the fortunes of some previous winners, whose books have rocketed into the bestseller charts as a result. The winner will be revealed next month.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Tory activist asked to step down after Labour candidate Rupa Huq is 'manhandled' while questioning Boris Johnson on the campaign trail
The C-Word - review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest adaptation of Lisa Lynch's book about living with cancer
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six: Make-up 'used to darken skin of actors to make them look Native American'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils