Sunday, August 07, 2005

So who will be next to win the Booker Prize for Fiction?

ENGLISH FICTION never had it so good. This year has seen a bountiful harvest of fiction, with strong novels coming from some of the best novelists writing in English today. It has been years since the garden of English fiction flowered in such profusion and chaos and there is much beauty in such chaos: John Banville, Julian Barnes, John Berger, J.M. Coetzee, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Kazuo Ishiguro, Dan Jacobson, Hilary Mantel, Ian McEwan, Caryl Phillips, Salman Rushdie, Ali Smith and Tim Winton. And emerging writers like Tash Aw, Louise Dean, Diana Evans, Marina Lewycka, James Meek, Zadie Smith and Philippa Stockley are doing interesting things with the novel as a literary form.

So what are the books that will be longlisted and/or shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction? (The 2005 Booker Prize longlist will be announced on August 10, 2005. The shortlist will be announced on September 8, 2005. And the winner will be declared on October 10, 2005.) By my reckoning, there are already a handful of strong contenders at this time of the year. Early frontrunners should include the following:

The Harmony Silk Factory
/ Tash Aw
The Sea / John Banville
Arthur & George / Julian Barnes
A Long Long Way / Sebastian Barry
Here Is Where We Meet / John Berger
The Family on Paradise Pier / Dermot Bolger
Slow Man/ J.M. Coetzee
This Human Season / Louise Dean
26a / Diana Evans
Desertion / Abdulrazak Gurnah
All for Love / Dan Jacobson
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian / Marina Lewycka

Never Let Me Go / Kazuo Ishiguro
Beyond Black / Hilary Mantel
Saturday / Ian McEwan
The People's Act of Love / James Meek
Dancing in the Dark / Caryl Phillips
Shalimar the Clown / Salman Rushdie
The Accidental / Ali Smith
On Beauty / Zadie Smith
A Factory of Cunning
/ Philippa Stockley
Divided Kingdom / Rupert Thomson
The Turning / Tim Winton

On whether literary prizes have a valid place in the literary world, I would like to quote Matthew Kneale: “I think they are useful because, at their best, they encourage an interest in good literature. I think people will always disagree on whether prizes go to the right books but the very fact that there is a debate will encourage people to read good books whether they're on a list or not. I think they have really helped British literature in the last 30 to 40 years just by the very fact that they've made a lot of good books popular and that just wasn't the way 20 or 30 years ago. You didn't find many supposedly literary books on bestseller lists, you didn't see them in the bookshops. Now you do and that's got to be a good thing.”

Of course, we must be wise to the ways of the world and not discount the fact that there are many books that somehow fail to win literary prizes but are nevertheless excellent.

The 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction longlist in full


Blogger Madge said...

Excellent and very thoughtful blog; I have enjoyed your reading suggestions, and am inspired by your love of reading!!!

Sunday, August 07, 2005 8:33:00 PM  
Blogger Gayla said...

Great blog--I'm going to check out some of the books on your list that didn't make the longlist, if I can find them here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005 1:37:00 AM  

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