Booker's giant-killing long list

Judges for this year’s £50 000 Man Booker literary prize threw one of the most remarkable surprises in its 39-year history by disregarding virtually all star literary novelists with new books under their belts.

Booksellers Waterstone’s called it a giant-felling list. The judges issued a list of 13 books (smaller than the 18 of recent years) containing only one expected title: Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach.
That novel, standing out like a landmark, instantly became bookmakers William Hill’s 3/1 favourite to win.

British author Edward Docx (33) is the youngest on the list and has been included for Self Help, set between London and St Petersburg. Debut novels in the long list include The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies, Gifted by Nikita Lalwani, who lives in London, What Was Lost by British author Catherine O’Flynn and The Gift of Rain, set in 1930s Penang, by Malaysia-born Tan Twan Eng.

Winnie and Wolf, AN Wilson’s story of the relationship between Winifred Wagner and Adolf Hitler, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, about a Pakistani living in the United States after September 11, by Pakistan-born author Mohsin Hamid, who lives in London, are also nominated. The judges set aside a book viewed as one of the surest choices in years, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, winner of the Orange Prize. This 230 000-word domestic epic of the Nigerian war was seen as likely to be a formidable candidate to win.

Among longer established stars ignored were JM Coetzee, who has won the prize twice, Graham Swift, who won with Waterland, the veteran Doris Lessing, author of Schindler’s Ark Thomas Keneally, and the English Patient‘s creator, Michael Ondaatje.

Chaired by Sir Howard Davies, director of the London School of Economics, the judges are poet Wendy Cope; Giles Foden, former deputy editor of the Guardian Saturday Review and author of the novels Last King of Scotland and Ladysmith; biographer and critic Ruth Scurr; and actor Imogen Stubbs.

The short list will be announced on September 6 and the winner on October 16.—Â

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