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Mail & Guardian Correspondent
26 Jul 2013 00:00
NoViolet Bulawayo. (Caine Prize)
1. The winner, to be named on October 15, gets £50 000.
2. This past week, the 2013 judges released "surely the most diverse" long list in the prize's history: 13 books by authors who are mostly not household names.
Only two on the list have been nominated before: Jim Crace is listed for Harvest, 16 years after he was shortlisted for Quarantine, and Colm Toibin, short-listed twice before, is in the running for The Testament of Mary (at 100 pages the shortest work on the list).
4. Previous Booker favourites who published a book this year – notably Margaret Atwood, JM Coetzee, Roddy Doyle and Thomas Keneally – failed to make the cut. Robert Macfarlane, chairperson of the 2013 judges, said the absence of big names could be a good thing: "If one of the purposes of a prize is to introduce new or less familiar voices then this list is certainly going to do that."
5. Macfarlane described the long list as "strong and contemporary". It took the judges five-and-a-half hours to decide – a measure, he said, of the care they took.
6. The longest book on the list, at 1000 pages, is also one of the most intriguing. The Kills, by Richard House, is a political thriller that is also "a vast and challenging and experimental work" (Macfarlane). It is actually four books, first released separately as e-books. It comes with additional digital material, but the Booker panel is judging only the words.
7. Three first-time novelists are on this year's list: NoViolet Bulawayo, born in Zimbabwe, for We Need New Names, a "visceral and bittersweet" portrayal of life in a Zimbabwean shantytown; Eve Harris for The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, set in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Hendon in London; and Donal Ryan for The Spinning Heart, about life after the 2008 financial collapse.
8. Ryan is one of three Irish writers on the list, the others being Toibin and Colum McCann, nominated for TransAtlantic, which spans 150 years of Irish life.
9. The prize boosts a book's sales considerably. For instance, the Guardian noted that, after Howard Jacobson's win in 2010, sales of his book, The Finkler Question, jumped nearly 2000%; in 2000, Atwood's The Blind Assassin had sold 8228 copies before the announcement – and 500717 after.
10. About 150 novels were read by the judges this year. They had seven months to read them. – © Guardian News & Media 2013
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