[The JRB Daily] 2017 Man Booker Prize shortlist announced

The shortlist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction has been announced, with six books described as ‘playful, sincere, unsettling, fierce’.

The prize, worth £50,000, was first awarded in 1969 and is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK.

The 2017 Man Booker Prize shortlist is:

Title Author (nationality) (imprint)

  • 4321 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber and Faber)
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (UK-Pakistan) (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)  

Chair of judges Lola, Baroness Young said: ‘With six unique and intrepid books that collectively push against the borders of convention, this year’s shortlist both acknowledges established authors and introduces new voices to the literary stage.

‘Playful, sincere, unsettling, fierce: here is a group of novels grown from tradition but also radical and contemporary. The emotional, cultural, political and intellectual range of these books is remarkable, and the ways in which they challenge our thinking is a testament to the power of literature.’

2017 is the fourth year for the prize to be open to writers of any nationality, and the shortlist is made up of two British, one British-Pakistani and three American writers. The nationalities on the shortlist will surely add fuel to the argument that opening up the prize to the United States has resulted in ‘less space’ for writers from the Commonwealth.

At the longlist announcement this year, judges attempted to allay these fears by pointing out that just a third of submissions for this year’s prize were by American writers—slightly down on last year—but as is evident today that has translated into half the books on the shortlist.

In fact, this year’s longlist featured just one author who does not have either UK, US or Ireland appended to their name—the Indian author Arundhati Roy, who has not made the shortlist.

Mohsin Hamid is the only writer of colour left in the mix, as Colson Whitehead—who was odds-on favourite to win—Roy, Kamila Shamsie and Zadie Smith did not make the cut.

In happier news, Fiona Mozley is the youngest author on the list, at 29, and one of two debut writers, the other being 38-year-old American Emily Fridlund. Acclaimed short story writer George Saunders has published a number of collections of fiction and novellas, but is shortlisted for his first full-length novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

It is the fourth Man Booker Prize shortlisting for Ali Smith, who was featured for Hotel World in 2001, The Accidental in 2005 and How to Be Both in 2014. Hamid was also previously shortlisted, for The Reluctant Fundamentalist in 2007.

The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. 

This year’s Booker judging panel was chaired by Lola, Baroness Young. She was joined by literary critic Lila Azam Zanganeh; Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novelist Sarah Hall; artist Tom Phillips CBE RA; and travel writer and novelist Colin Thubron CBE.

The 2017 winner will be announced on Tuesday, 17 October in London.


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