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Man Booker Prize 2017 shortlist announced, choices raise eyebrows

The Man Booker Prize's shortlist has raised many eyebrows as it excluded a number of big names

Ahram Online , Wednesday 13 Sep 2017
BOOKER
The six shortlisted books
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The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize was announced today, raising many eyebrows as big names like Arundhati Roy, Sebastian Barry and Zadie Smith have not made the cut.

The two debut novelists on the longlist, who also happen to be the youngest and least known – Emily Fridlund and Fiona Mozley – have both made it to the shortlist.

The six novels that have made it to the list are:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

Mozley's Elmet is her debut novel, while Auster's 4 3 2 1 is his 20th.

The book marks Auster's first time on the shortlist, and at 866 pages is double the length of the next longest novel on the list; George Saunders's Lincoln in the Bardo.

While the award-winning Saunders already has an established reputation as a writer of short stories and novellas, his tale of Abraham Lincoln's grief at the death of his son is his first full-blown novel.

Saunders reverses a concept once touched upon by English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy, who said that he would not have been able to write his poetry without first gaining knowledge from writing his novels.

Ali Smith appears regularly on the Man Booker shortlist, with this being her fourth nomination. Smith is rapidly closing in on Beryl Bainbridge's legendary five nominations. 

Autumn is also the first in a projected quartet of novels with seasonal titles, the second of which, Winter, is due in November.

Mohsin Hamid is another writer who has been here before; his The Reluctant Fundamentalist was shortlisted in 2007.

What can one glean from a shortlist where the chosen novels seem to have little in common?

Saunders' is a work of historical fiction, while Auster's is an epic story of an extended immigrant family. Fridlund's History of Wolves concerns a teenage girl with a tragedy in her past, and Mozley's is the tale of a small off-the-grid family in crisis. Hamid's Exit West mixes the current refugee catastrophe with magical realism, while Smith's novel deals with love and hope in the time of Brexit.

Whatever the judges are looking for, it is clearly not consistency of subject matter, nor can they be accused of favouring one particular genre.

The winner of the prize is set to be announced on 17 October 2017.

The Man Booker Prize was established in 1969. The winner receives £50,000 as well as the £2,500 awarded to each of the shortlisted authors.

Both the winner and the shortlisted authors are guaranteed a worldwide readership plus an increase in book sales.

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