The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 25 July 2019

The Booker Prize 2019, Longlist

Hello Gentle Reader

The Booker Prize judges have released the thirteen names of the longlisted authors and novels, for this year’s Booker Prize. The longlist has been called exacting, but also safe and conventional; yet it is the first time the long time, there is a limited number of Americans longlisted for the award. In their stead they prize has included some unique authors, as well as previous winners and nominees. Without further ado, the following list is the thirteen authors and novels longlisted for this year’s award, in no particular order:

Margaret Atwood – Canada – “The Last Testament,”
Salman Rushdie – United Kingdom/India – “Quichotte,”
Deborah levy – United Kingdom/South Africa – “The Man Who Saw Everything,”
Max Porter – United Kingdom – “Lanny,”
Oyinkan Braithwaite – Nigeria – “My Sister, the Serial Killer,”
Kevin Barry – Ireland – “Night Boat to Tangier,”
Chigozie Obioma – Nigeria – “An Orchestra of Minorities,”
Jeanette Winterson – United Kingdom – “Frankissstein,”
John Lanchester – United Kingdom – “The Wall,”
Bernardine Evaristo – United Kingdom – “Girl, Woman, Other,”
Lucy Ellmann – United States of America – “Ducks, Newburyport,”
Elif Shafak – Turkey – “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World,”
Valeria Luiselli – Mexico (resides in the United States) – “Lost Children Archive,”

Immediately it can be seen why the Booker Prize has been deemed to a degree, conventional and safe. Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie have both won the Booker Prize prior. Salman Rushdie had even previously won the “Golden Booker.” Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Last Testament,” which is not to be published until the autumn, has been criticized by some as one of the conventional picks; but also a cash grab by the author, thanks in part to the success of the “Handmaid’s Tale,” adaption. “The Last Testament,” is set fifteen years after the original novel, and follows the lives of three women in the fictional dystopian theocratic society of Gilead. “Quichotte,” by Salman Rushdie, is his first novel to have made some large literary splashes over the years. The novel is a reimagining narrative of Don Quixote, as it traverses the strange and surreal adventures of a traveling salesman through the United States. Deborah Levy has been nominated for the Booker Prize twice before, and shortlisted for her novels “Swimming Home,” and “Hot Milk.” Her novels are noted for their claustrophobic dramas, fixating on the intimacy of moments, creating a surreal and often tense atmosphere, lurking with paranoia. “The Man Who Saw Everything,” is of no exception, weaving together two narratives of a synonymous car accident, with strange and surreal results.  

It is wonderful to see Nigeria represented with strength this year as well. Oyinkan Braithwaite’s novel “My Sister, the Serial Killer,” has been described as a pastiche of splatter horror, love story, and a heavy dose of morbid humour. Chigozie Obioma’s novel “An Orchestra of Minorities,” is a unique magical realist novel narrated by Chi, a guardian spirit of Igbo myth, who observes the ordeal of an ambitious Nigerian student, who becomes stranded in Cyprus, after falling for false education program, and inevitable scam. Bernardine Evaristo also takes a unique perspective, as she discusses the lives of unique characters who tackle issues of gender, identity, and ethnicity in the modern world. It is a novel that seeks to make the connections of each individual human experience through the unique disparity of life.

The English writer Max Porter’s novel “Lanny,” is being called a unique hybrid of both prose and poetry, much like his initial debut: “Grief is a the Thing with Feathers.” The novel recounts the story of a strange English boy of a small English town who disappears, and in the wake of his absence, a strange force is summoned. It’s a strange novel that experiments with voices, delves into English folklore with a certain poetic finesse. Now with his second book, Max Porter is showcasing himself to being one of the most unique and exciting voices to be writing in the English language.

I’d like end this post with a certain discussion on English as a literary language, but not necessarily a native language. When the Booker Prize opening its nomination edibility up beyond the United Kingdom and the Common Wealth, as well as Northern Ireland and India, it was originally dominated and overshadowed by American writers, dampening the attempt at having a global perspective. Now, it seems the prize is finally beginning to show its global aspirations with the inclusion of: Elif Shafak and Valeria Luiselli, who are multilingual writers, and have begun to write and publish some of their works in the English language. Elif Shafak is originally a Turkish writer, who has lived in the United Kingdom for some years, and has been penalized in her homeland, even facing criminal charges, which has since forced her into exile. Her novel: “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World,” returns Turkey, as it recounts the memories and scarce life of a sex worker who is murdered in the outskirts of Istanbul; her body is discarded in a dumpster like trash, and as her cognitive functions begin the inevitable shut down, she reviews her life through the short frame of ten minutes and thirty seconds. Valeria Luiselli novel “Lost Children Archives,” takes aim at the American Policy of separating children and parents, who are illegal migrants from one another. It’s a stream of consciousness road trip that is tender, as well as heartwarming, despite the sociopolitical preoccupations.  “Lost Children Archives,” is Valeria Luiselli’s debut novel in the English language.

The best of luck of luck to all the nominees, it’ll be an interesting shortlist when it is released this autumn.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

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