Booker Prize: Alan Garner becomes oldest shortlisted author
Only the British writer is shortlisted to win the prize on his 88th birthday if successful, and is on the list of books that the judges say “speak powerfully about important things”.
Alan Garner has become the oldest author shortlisted for the ‘Booker’ prize and is the only British writer on this year’s list.
It has joined the shortlist, described by chair of judges Neil MacGregor as six books that “speak powerfully about important things”, by an Irish writer, two Americans, a Zimbabwean and a Sri Lankan writer.
Historian MacGregor said the judges were looking for books in which “something important happens”, as well as novels which “demonstrate how great writing gives form to the human predicament”.
MacGregor was joined on the judging panel by academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari; historian Helen Castor; novelist and critic M John Harrison; and novelist, poet and professor Alain Mabanckou.
If Garner goes on to win for his novel Treacle Walker, about a young man who is visited by a wandering healer, he will receive the award on his 88th birthday. Treacle Walker is also the shortest book on the list, at around 15,000 words.
The judges called it a “mysterious, beautifully written and affecting look at the deep workings of being human” and said the book had moved some of them to tears.
Also, there are former close candidates NoViolet Bulawayo and Elizabeth Strout. Zimbabwean Bulawayo, who was shortlisted in 2013 for her debut Ne Need New Names, is back in the last six with Animal Farm-inspired political satire Glory, delivered by a chorus of animals. The judges called it “a magical crossing of the African continent, in its political excesses and its quirky characters”.
American author Strout was shortlisted in 2006 with My Name is Lucy Barton. This year’s shortlisted title, Oh William!, is also part of her Lucy Barton series and sees the character reconnect with her first husband. The judges described it as “one of those quietly radiant books that finds the deepest mysteries in the simplest things”.
Shehan Karunatilaka’s Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is about a photographer caught up in the horrors of civil war and is his second novel, published 10 years after his first. He is the second Sri Lankan author in two years to be shortlisted for the Booker and has written a novel “full of ghosts, gags and a deep humanity”, say the judges.
American writer Percival Everett’s The Trees is about detectives investigating a series of gruesome murders in Money, Mississippi, where Emmett Till was lynched 65 years ago. The judges said it was “terrifying and very funny” and that it “asks questions about history and justice and does not allow for a single easy answer”.
Irish author Claire Keegan has been shortlisted for the exquisite film Small Things Like These, set on Christmas Eve in a small Irish town. The panel said Keegan was “sober and unsparing as she analyzes one 1980s Irish town’s tacit acceptance of the Church’s cruel treatment of unwed mothers”.
The director of the Booker prize foundation, Gaby Wood, said there had been “virtually no argument, no fine line” between the judges when deciding on the shortlist. They had chosen books that bring history to life and, Bari said, “books that use humor as a strategy.”
Half of the titles on the list are published by independents: Little Things Like These from Faber, Maali Almeida’s Seven Moons from Sort Of and Trees from Influx.
Bea Carvalho, head of fiction at Waterstones, said the shortlist showed “amazing literary experience and prestige, with nominees that booksellers have enjoyed championing for many years”.
“We are delighted that the Booker judges have selected such a commercially strong and wide-ranging selection and look forward to seeing what they choose as the 2022 winners,” she added.
The 2022 winner will be announced on Monday 17 October at an awards ceremony held at the Roundhouse in London. The six shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book; the winner will receive £50,000./The Guardian