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Man Booker longlist captures a world on the brink

London, July 24 (IANS) From a staggering 171 submissions — the highest number of titles put forward in the Man Booker Prize’s 50 year history — 13 novels, which capture facets of a world on the brink, have been longlisted for the 2018 edition of the much-coveted 50,000 pound literary award.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the times, there were many dystopian fictions on our bookshelf – and many novels we found inspirational as well as disturbing. Some of those we have chosen for this longlist feel urgent and topical, others might have been admired and enjoyed in any year,” Kwame Anthony Appiah, Chair of the 2018 judges, said in a statement.

The British-born Ghanaian-American philosopher, cultural theorist, and novelist said that all of the longlisted books – which take in slavery, ecology, missing persons, inner-city violence, young love, prisons, trauma, race – capture something about a world on the brink.

The longlist features a graphic novel, Nick Drnaso’s “Sabrina”, for the first time, besides four debut novelists and four authors under the age of 30. The longlist consists of six writers from the UK, three from the US, two from Ireland and two from Canada.

This year’s Golden Man Booker winner Michael Ondaatje — a special one-off award that crowned the best work of fiction from the last five decades of the prize — has once again made it to the list with his seventh novel “Warlight”. Ondaatje’s “The English Patient” shared the 1992 Booker Prize with “Sacred Hunger” by Barry Unsworth.

He is joined by three other authors previously nominated for the prize: Esi Edugyan (shortlisted in 2011 for “Half-Blood Blues”), Donal Ryan (longlisted in 2013 for “The Spinning Heart”), and Richard Powers (longlisted in 2014 for “Orfeo”).

The four debutants recognised by the judges this year include eminent Scottish poet Robin Robertson’s “The Long Take”, a novel in verse; Sophie Mackintosh’s “The Water Cure”; Guy Gunaratne’s “In Our Mad And Furious City” and Daisy Johnson’s “Everything Under”.

“Among their many remarkable qualities is a willingness to take risks with form. And we were struck, overall, by their disruptive power: these novels disrupted the way we thought about things we knew about, and made us think about things we didn’t know about.

“Still, despite what they have in common, every one of these books is wildly distinctive. It’s been an exhilarating journey so far and we’re looking forward to reading them again. But now we’ll have thousands and thousands of people reading along with us,” Appiah added.

Johnson, aged 27, is the joint youngest author on the list, alongside Sally Rooney (for “Normal People”).

The shortlist of six books will be announced on September 20. The winner will be revealed on October 16.

As usual, the winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize can expect international recognition.

In the week following the 2017 winner announcement, sales of “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders increased by 1,227 per cent.

Bloomsbury has till date sold over 230,000 copies of Lincoln across all formats — 70 per cent of those sales coming after the win.

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