By Atul Mishra
Formerly called Booker-McConnell Prize, Man Booker Prize is one of the most prestigious literary awards given to an English language novel. Every year thousands of publishers send their books to the Man Booker Foundation out of which only 15-18 make it to the long list. From this long list, 5 or 6 best are shortlisted. And one becomes winner of “The Booker” in October every year.
This year has been very diverse as far as the nominations and short list are considered. Two authors from UK, two from US, and one each from Nigeria and Jamaica have made it to the final list. The winner shall be announced on October 13. Let us look briefly at this year’s shortlist.
A Brief History of Seven Killings, By Marlon James (Jamaica)
The book explores the story revolving around the attempted assassination of the Jamaican sensation Bob Marley, the aftermath of the infamous event in New York and the changed Jamaica in 1990s. The plot is interwoven with stories and confrontations of MPs, CIA members, gunmen and the drug dealers. It’s morbid, profane, elegiac and humorous, all at same time.
The book was a finalist at the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award. It won the 2015 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction.
Satin Island, By Tom McCarthy (UK)
Set in contemporary London, Satin Island tells the story of U – a “corporate anthropologist” working for an elite consultancy who embarks on a data-gathering project to help “decode and manipulate the world around them”.
Judges of this year said, “Satin Island offers an elegant, desperate and funny account of what might well be the world of tomorrow if it weren’t already the world of today.” (Source: BBC.com)
The Fishermen, By Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)
Africa has produced legendary authors like Chinua Achebe and Ngugi. Chigozie Obioma is no less than them.
Mysteriously engaging pages, the uncertainty of what would unroll as the plot unfolds make this fiction an enigma that moves your heart. The book follows the story of four young brothers from a remote Nigerian village who go on fishing in a forbidden river in the absence of their father. Later the plot becomes mysterious when they encounter a madman, who foretells that the eldest will be killed by one of his brothers.
The Year of the Runaways, By Sunjeev Sahota (UK)
Three Indians living in the same house in Sheffield are in a flight from India in desperate search of a new life. The first named Tarlochan, who is a former rickshaw driver who says nothing about his past in Bihar. The second, Avatar, has a secret (that is revealed at the end, citing here would be a spoiler) that binds him to protect the third named Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband’s clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.
Sweeping between India and England, and between childhood and the present day, The Year of the Runaways is a story of an unlikely family thrown together by circumstance.
A Spool of Blue Thread, By Anne Tyler
‘Nostalgia’ would be the best word to describe this novel. The novel explores Abby Whitshank who always reminisces about her past as to how she and Red fell in love someday in July 1959. The whole family is sitting on the same porch in the same house, listening to the same tale for the umpteenth time. And yet this gathering is different.
From this porch we’re zoomed in back to three generations of the Whitshanks where secrets and moments unfold that have come to define the present day family.
The novel portrays pictures of a typical household but in a brilliant and engaging manner that leaves your heart stirred from the core.
A Little Life, By Hanya Yanagihara (US)
This novel reminds us a bit of the Booker winner Julian Barnes’ ‘The Sense of an Ending’. Four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York aspiring for name and fortune.
However, everything gets stirred and turns upside down, when they meet an orphan named Jude who has a painful past. This fiction very enigmatically portrays tales of love, labyrinthine memories and confrontations of the present.
What unfolds when the pain of past merges with the happiness of the present, is so starkly penned down by Hanya Yanagihara that you are mesmerizingly moved at the end.