LONDON, United Kingdom — Previous winners A.S. Byatt and J.M. Coetzee are among six finalists announced Tuesday for literature’s prestigious Man Booker Prize.
Byatt’s Edwardian family saga “The Children’s Book” and Coetzee’s semi-autobiographical “Summertime” are leading contenders for the 50,000-pound (US$82,000) fiction award.
A victory for South African Nobel literature laureate Coetzee would make him the first writer to win the Booker three times. He took the prize in 1983 with “Life & Times of Michael K” and in 1999 with “Disgrace.”
Byatt won the Booker in 1990 for “Possession.”
They face strong competition for a prize that always attracts the attention of literary-minded gamblers. Bookies have reported a surge of bets on Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” a historical novel set during the reign of Henry VIII. Bookmaker William Hill made Mantel 4/5 favourite for the prize, well ahead of the rest of the field.
The other contenders are Adam Foulds’ “The Quickening Maze,” inspired by 19th-century poet John Clare; Simon Mawer’s “The Glass Room,” the story of a Jewish family set against the backdrop of the rise of Nazism; and Sarah Waters’ “The Little Stranger,” a spooky tale that unfolds in 1940s England.
The Booker is open to writers from Britain, Ireland or the Commonwealth of former British colonies. Apart from Coetzee, all this year’s finalists are British.
Canada’s only hope for the award was on the long list of 13 novels but did not make the final cut. Alberta-born Ed O’Loughlin’s ”Not Untrue and Not Unkind” had been nominated. He spent the first six years of his life in Alberta before moving to Ireland.
Journalist James Naughtie, who is chairing the judging panel, said the final nominees were all “writers on the top of their form.”
“There is thundering narrative, great inventiveness, poetry and sharp human insight in abundance,” he said.
The Booker almost always brings a big surge in sales for the winner — and a welcome boost for book stores.
Jonathan Ruppin of Foyles’ bookstore chain welcomed a shortlist he said had strong commercial potential.
“It’s noticeable that this year the majority of writers in contention all have a few books to their names already, which perhaps underlines the fact that most outstanding authors are like vintage wines, developing a fuller, richer appeal as their careers progress,” Ruppin said.
“For bookshops, winners with a few books under their belt already tend to be better for sales: this gets people buying more books by that author and, we hope, encourages them to start exploring beyond the best-sellers at the front of the shop.”
The winner will be announced Oct. 6.
The award was founded in 1969 and was long known as the Booker Prize. It was renamed the Man Booker Prize when the financial services conglomerate Man Group PLC began sponsoring it several years ago.
On the Net: http://www.themanbookerprize.com
A. S. Byatt, J. M. Coetzee, Adam Foulds, Hilary Mantel, Simon Mawer and Sarah Waters are the shortlisted authors for the U.S. $82,000 award.
Many are making repeat appearances, with South African Coetzee hoping to win the prize for a third time.
The winner of the Man Booker will be named on Oct. 6.
Here are the six finalists, but author, title and publisher.
— A.S.Byatt, The Children’s Book, Random House, Chatto and Windus
— J.M. Coetzee, Summertime, Random House, Harvill Secker
— Adam Foulds, The Quickening Maze, Random House, Jonathan Cape
— Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall, HarperCollins, Fourth Estate
— Simon Mawer, The Glass Room, Little, Brown
— Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger, Little, Brown, Virago