The 2021 Booker Prize shortlist looks to the future
The 2021 Booker Prize shortlist was revealed on September 15, with six of the previously announced 13-novel longlist making the cut. Each of the six authors are to receive GBP 2,500, while the winner, to be announced on November 3 at the BBC Radio Theatre, will receive GBP 50,000. Notably, and much like 2020's competition, only one British author is named in the shortlist.
Somali-born British novelist Nadifa Mohamed is nominated for her historical-thriller The Fortune Men (Viking, 2021), for which The Guardian hailed the author as a "literary star of her generation". The novel is Mohamed's third in a young and already-illustrious career. Also penning her third publication is American novelist Maggie Shipstead. Her own take on historical fiction, Great Circle (Transworld, 2021) is a dual story of two women, one belonging to the early 20th century and one in present day—the former a pioneering, daredevil aviator who disappeared presumably in Antarctica, and the latter an actress cast to play her in a major motion picture.
Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam is the only writer of Asian origin, with his second novel A Passage North (Granta Books, 2021) among the six nominees. The novel, praised as "masterful" and "mind-expanding", has already amassed considerable acclaim, and is one of the frontrunners to take home the prize. American poet and essayist Patricia Lockwood's debut novel No One Is Talking About This (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021) is another release poised for success. The novel, drawing comparisons to Faulkner, Woolf, and Nabokov, was recently also in the running for the Women's Prize for Fiction as well as the 2021 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.
American novelist and 2019 Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Powers, along with South African writer and three-time Booker Prize-nominee Damon Galgut, are the two writers on the list with decades of experience to their name. Galgut's The Promise (Jonathan Cape, 2021) takes us once more through history, this one through harrowing and deeply personal portraitures of South African life affected by Apartheid.
Powers' Bewilderment (Hutchinson Heinemann, 2021) takes us along for the life of recently-widowed Theo Byrne, an astrobiologist, and father to troubled nine-year-old son Robin. Bewilderment, set in the ecologically-damaged near future, is the only work of speculative fiction on the list. The novel is due for release in late September, with its film rights recently purchased by Plan B Entertainment and Black Bear Pictures after a bidding war among several studios.
"This year, over the course of nine largely solitary months, five strangers of disparate backgrounds showed each other what they saw in stories—what dazzled them or challenged them, what touched them or left them unmoved", said Gaby Wood, director of the Booker Prize Foundation, of the judging process. "As always, the lucky winners will be the readers".
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