Entertainment & Arts

Man Booker Prize: Commonwealth authors edged out

Booker Prize nominated books
Image caption The longlist comprises four US novelists, six from the UK, two from Ireland and one from Australia

Authors from most Commonwealth countries have been sidelined from the Man Booker longlist, after the prize was opened up to American writers.

Australia's Richard Flanagan is the only non-British representative of the Commonwealth on the 13-strong list, while US novelists fill four spots.

Former winner Howard Jacobson is in the running again, but some high-profile names, including Ian McEwan and Donna Tartt failed to make the list.

The winner will get £50,000 in October.

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

Flanagan is nominated for The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a haunting account of the Australian servicemen who, as Japanese prisoners of war, were forced to build the so-called Burma railway.

The author, from Tasmania, wrote the book in tribute to his late father who survived the experience - but thousands more did not.

Considered by many to be the finest Australian novelist of his generation, his other works include The Sound of One Hand Clapping and he also co-wrote the script for the Baz Luhrmann film, Australia.

He is up against best-selling authors including David Nicholls, whose upcoming novel Us is about the "the bond of marriage and the demands of parenthood".

Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell gets his third Booker nomination for The Bone Clocks which follows the story of Holly Sykes, who runs away from home in 1984 and 60 years later can be found in the far west of Ireland, raising a granddaughter as the world's climate collapses.

Image copyright Handout
Image caption This year's judging panel features (standing L-R) Alastair Niven, Daniel Glaser, chair AC Grayling, Erica Wagner and (seated L-R) Sarah Churchwell and Jonathan Bate

Only three women make the longlist, including Scotland's Ali Smith, for her inventive new novel How To Be Both.

The book tells two interlinking stories, one about a renaissance artist in 15th Century Italy, the other about a child of the 1960s - and the reader can decide which half to read first.

The American newcomers are represented by Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Siri Hustvedt and Richard Powers, while Joseph O'Neill - born in Ireland, raised in the Netherlands and living in New York - is described as "Irish/American" by the Booker panel.

His latest novel, The Dog, is about a man who flees his position in a Manhattan law firm after a bad breakup with a colleague. Settling in Dubai, he lives a luxurious existence, but must come to terms with alienation and vulnerability.

Fowler, who is best known for her light-hearted novel The Jane Austen Book Club, is nominated for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, about an ordinary Mid-western family: two parents and three children - one of whom turns out to be surprisingly special.

Image copyright janie airie
Image caption The 2013 Booker shortlist excluded US literary works for the final time

Ferris's third novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour looks at atheism through the eyes of a dentist, who spends the day looking at death and decay, but cannot find solace in religion.

The longlist also includes a crowdfunded novel by first-time author Paul Kingsnorth.

The Wake, set just after the Battle of Hastings, depicts guerrilla warfare against the Norman-French invaders in the Lincolnshire fens, and uses a semi-invented language "intended to convey the feeling" of Old English.

It was picked up by the small and relatively new publisher Unbound, who encouraged readers to pledge money towards its release - eventually securing enough to get the book printed.

"One of the things that makes me so happy being on the longlist is that this book is a collaborative venture," he told the BBC.

Analysis: Rebecca Jones, BBC arts correspondent

The prize has gone global and the longlist reflects that change - but only up to a point. There are four Americans, alongside Joseph O'Neill who lives in New York, but was born in Ireland. Richard Flanagan, from Tasmania, flies the flag for Australia and Niall Williams is Irish.

But there are no Indian or African authors and that will raise eyebrows among those who feared writers from some Commonwealth countries might get squeezed out by the new rules.

Five Britons make the list, including the former winner of the prize, Howard Jacobson. David Mitchell and Ali Smith have both been shortlisted in the past. And David Nicholls, the author of the phenomenally successful One Day, is also longlisted for his new novel Us. It is one of five books on the list which won't be published until September.

There are some notable absentees. No room for the American Donna Tartt as well as high profile British authors including Ian McEwan, Will Self and Martin Amis.


Announcing the longlist, chair of the judging panel, AC Grayling said: "This is a diverse list of ambition, experiment, humour and artistry. The novels selected are full of wonderful stories and fascinating characters.

"The judges were impressed by the range of issues tackled - from 1066 to the future, from a PoW camp in Thailand, to a dentist's chair in Manhattan; from the funny to the deeply serious, sometimes in the same book."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Eleanor Catton was the youngest-ever winner of the Booker last year, for The Luminaries

The shortlist of six books will be announced on 9 September, followed by the main prize on 14 October at a ceremony to be broadcast by the BBC.

Last year, the Booker was won by New Zealand's Eleanor Catton for The Luminaries.

At 28, she was the youngest-ever winner and said her life had been changed by the award.

"I've been given opportunities to travel and to see my book read by such an astonishingly wide readership all over the world," she said.

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