So, here it is; the Man Booker Prize final six of 2016. Following nearly two months of intense speculation, a select panel of five judges have revealed a shortlist filled with welcome surprises, as big names have fallen short against upcoming, independent writers.
When the longlist was released in July, the Booker’s ‘Dozen’ was commended for its inclusion of three independent printers amongst the publishing powerhouses. The success of these smaller firms does not appear to have faltered. Oneworld, the printing house responsible for last year’s win, A Brief History of Seven Killings, once again make an appearance with Paul Beatty’s The Sellout. Another triumph for independent publishing is Graeme Macrae Burnet’s historical novel His Bloody Project, published by the Scottish independent publisher Contraband.
With only a few thousand copies printed with its initial release, the pandemonium surrounding Graeme Macrae Burnet’s presence on the list have left bookshops running out of copies (with the Waterstones on Princes Street possessing the final six hundred copies!). While his stance in the shortlist has stumped some critics, seeing a Scottish writer is a wonderful thing, especially as again independent publishers are being promoted in the process. As for the reason for his success, Macrae Burnet’s choice of genre could have something to do with it. With historical novels having won the prize now four years in a row, will his crime-historical-thriller hybrid follow in the footsteps of past winners?
From across the Atlantic come four contenders for the prize. In 2012, the Man Booker Prize Foundation announced the removal of the rule limiting submissions to writers within the commonwealth. Their decision to open up the competition to any original novel written in the English language has benefited writers Paul Beatty and Ottessa Moshfegh, both from the USA and the only contenders from outside of the commonwealth. Beatty’s The Sellout is his fourth published novel, whereas Moshfegh’s Eileen is only her second full-length publication. Across the International Boundary come another two contenders from North America, in Canadians David Szalay’s All That Man Is and Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
Some may be upset by JM Coetzee, A. L. Kennedy and Elizabeth Strout’s absences from the shortlist, who all have been awarded prestigious titles in the past. That said, those who have made it there act as reassurance to the public that the Man Booker foundation are aware of the prize’s significance within the literary world. By giving smaller publishers and until now unheard writers an opportunity to fare against bigger names, the shortlist has given novice hopefuls the chance to win £50,000 and subsequently strengthen their public profile. Of course, there is the chance that Hot Milk may finally secure Deborah Levy a win following her first appearance on the shortlist in 2012. Nevertheless, that does not undermine the shortlist’s success in its attempt to increase the variety of its nominations, in terms of its nominees and the novels’ content. Once more, all of this has been achieved whilst throwing a few curve-balls at those trying to predict the judges’ decisions in the process.
With the winner being announced on the 25th October, there are around six weeks to go until we find out who has risen above the rest to take the £50,000 cash prize. In the run-up to the announcement, the Culture team will take a look at each nomination individually, to see who we believe deserves the accolade. First up, Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh. Stay tuned!
Photo credit: Pexels