On 3 September, the 2019 Booker Prize Shortlist was announced and women writers are at the fore, with four female and two male authors in the running. Margaret Atwood, Lucy Ellmann, Bernardine Evaristo, Chigozie Obioma, Salman Rushdie and Elif Shafak were announced as the six authors shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction. The 2019 winner will be announced on 14 October at an awards ceremony at London’s Guildhall.
The Shortlist was selected from 151 submitted books. It offers an insight into different worlds, from the dystopian setting of Gilead, the monologue of an Ohio housewife, and the tragicomic tale of a travelling salesman in America; to mostly female, mostly black, British lives across generations, the trials of a young Nigerian man on a quest to improve his prospects and true allegiances within the brothels of Istanbul.
The 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK or Ireland between 1 October 2018 and 30 September 2019. The rules of the prize were changed at the end of 2013 to embrace the English language ‘in all its vigour, its vitality, its versatility and its glory’, opening it up to writers beyond the UK and Commonwealth, provided they were writing novels in English and published in the UK.
Margaret Atwood (Canada) is shortlisted for The Testaments, the sequel to her 1986 Booker Prize-shortlisted The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood won the 2000 Booker Prize for The Blind Assassin and was also shortlisted for Cat’s Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996) and Oryx and Crake (2003).
Bernardine Evaristo (UK), shortlisted for Girl, Woman, Other has founded several successful initiatives as a literary activist for inclusion. They include Spread the Word writer development agency (1995 – ongoing); The Complete Works mentoring scheme for poets of colour (2007 – 2017) and the Brunel International African Poetry Prize (2012 – ongoing).
Lucy Ellmann’s (UK/USA) Ducks, Newburyport, if it goes on to win, would be the longest winning novel in the prize’s history at 998 pages. The current longest winning novel is The Luminaries (2013) by Eleanor Catton, at 832 pages.
An Orchestra of Minorities is both Chigozie Obioma’s (Nigeria) second novel and second Man Booker/Booker Prize shortlisting. His debut, The Fishermen, was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, and its highly acclaimed stage adaption opened in the West End.
Salman Rushdie (UK/India), shortlisted for Quichotte, won the 1981 Booker Prize for Midnight’s Children. In 1993, it was judged to be the ‘Booker of Bookers’, to mark the 25th anniversary of the prize and in 2008 the ‘Best of the Booker’ to mark the 40th anniversary. Rushdie was also shortlisted for Shame (1983), The Satanic Verses (1988) and The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995) and longlisted for Shalimar the Clown (2005) and The Enchantress of Florence (2008).
Elif Shafak (Turkey/UK), shortlisted for 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, writes in Turkish and English and is the most widely read female author in Turkey. In 2017, she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better.
The shortlisted authors each receive £2 500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner will receive a further £50 000 and can expect instant international recognition. In the week following the 2018 winner announcement, sales of Milkman by Anna Burns increased by 880% from 963 in the week prior to the announcement to 9 446 in the week following the announcement, then a further 99% (9 446 to 18 786) the following week. The total number of copies of Milkman sold, across all formats, is currently 546 500.
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is now in its 47th year. It was called The Booker Prize from 1969 to 2001. PH Newby was the first winner of the prize in 1969 with Something to Answer For. From 2002, the prize became the Man Booker Prize when the Man Group came on board as sponsor, making Yann Martel the first winner of the Man Booker Prize with Life of Pi. The Man Group was the sponsor of The (Man) Booker Prize from 2002 and The Man Booker International Prize sponsor since its inception in 2005 until 1 June 2019. On 28 February 2019, the trustees of The Booker Prize Foundation announced that Crankstart, the charitable foundation of Sir Michael Moritz KBE and his wife, Harriet Heyman, is the new supporter of The Booker Prize and The International Booker Prize.
Crankstart committed to an initial five-year exclusive funding term with an option to renew for a further five years. The new arrangement began on 1 June 2019, which marked the conclusion of 18 years of successful and generous sponsorship by the Man Group. The prize is now once again known as The Booker Prize, while the prize for literature in translation is now called The International Booker Prize.
South African JM Coetzee was the first person to win twice, in 1983 and again in 1999, when he described The Booker as ‘the ultimate prize to win in the English speaking world.’ He won with Life & Times of Michael K in 1983, a story of a man named Michael K, who makes an arduous journey from Cape Town to his mother’s rural birthplace, amid a fictitious civil war during the apartheid era, in the 1970-80s.
Coetzee won again in 1999 with Disgrace, the story of David Lurie, a South African professor of English who loses everything: his reputation, his job, his peace of mind, his dreams of artistic success, and finally even his ability to protect his own daughter. He is twice-divorced and dissatisfied with his job as a ‘communications’ lecturer, teaching a class in romantic literature at a technical university in Cape Town in post-apartheid South Africa.
Hilary Mantel was the first woman and the first British author to win the prize twice in 2009 and 2012 for her best-selling novels, Wolf Hall, and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. Wolf Hall has been translated into 36 languages, Bring Up the Bodies into 31 languages, and sales for both books have reached over 5 million copies worldwide. Since 1969, 31 men and 16 women have won The Booker Prize.
Booker is the UK’s leading food wholesaler with 198 business centres and a national delivery network. It serves over 441 000 catering customers, 94 000 independent retailers and 641 000 small businesses.
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