SA authors on Booker longlist

JM Coetzee is the favourite, at 6-1, on the longlist of 23 novels up for this year’s Booker Prize, an award Coetzee was the first author to win twice. The book in question, Elizabeth Costello, will be published in South Africa in September.

South African Damon Galgut is also on the longlist, with his novel The Good Doctor, just published in this country. South-African-born Barbara Trapido, whose new novel Frankie and Stankie returns to her childhood and youth in this country, is likewise longlisted.
Both are given odds of 25-1.

One of the longlist’s suprises is the inclusion of Martin Amis, who has consistently been excluded from the prize (he was shortlisted only once, in 1991) despite the view of many that he is the best British novelist of his generation. His new novel, Yellow Dog, is billed as “a post 9/11 comedy”.

Otherwise it was virtually a day of the long knives for the established writers who would normally have expected to be on the list. Those who fell in the first round included two-time winner Peter Carey, 1995 winner Pat Barker, and one-time shortlisted authors Peter Ackroyd, JG Ballard and Jim Crace. Previous winners Graham Swift and Margaret Atwood, however, are on the list.

Outsiders will watch the next stage of judging closely for signs of the contest moving further away from literary novels, and towards books that “tell a story’‘, as some of last year’s judges said they wanted. The victory last year for Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi (which has subsequently sold very well) was seen as part of this trend.

The longlist includes several authors who are virtually unknown, and four first-time novelists. One unusual choice is Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, jointly published by Jonathan Cape and the children’s imprint David Fickling.

The judges’ chairperson, critic John Carey, said: “This is a strong and diverse longlist, with a pleasing component of new names.”

The shortlist of six titles will be announced in September, and the winner a month later. — Â

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