Anna Burns' Milkman, Esi Edugyan's Washington Black, Daisy Johnson's Everything Under, Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room, Richard Powers' The Overstory and Robin Robertson's The Long Take have been announced as the six authors and works shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
These six novels, which include one debut (Johnson), were chosen from a longlist of 13 titles by the Man Booker Prize panel, which this year comprises of five judges; crime writer Val McDermid, cultural critic Leo Robson, feminist writer and critic Jacqueline Rose, artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton, and chair of the judges, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah. In total 171 works were submitted for consideration, the greatest number in the history of the prize.
The Man Booker Prize is awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language, and published in the UK. Established in 1969 the prize was initially only available to authors from Commonwealth, Irish and South African citizens, however this was opened out in 2014 to English language novels from authors of any nationality.
On Sunday 14 October, all six authors in contention for the prize will appear at Southbank Centre for the 2018 Man Booker Prize Readings, where they will each read extracts from their shortlisted novels. Until then, here’s a little more about each of the longlisted works.
Milkman is narrated by an unnamed 18-year-old woman living in an unnamed town, who finds herself at the centre of local gossip when an older, married man, known to have paramilitary connections and a habit of grooming young girls, starts to pursue her. The backdrop of the action is the Irish Troubles but Burns is more interested in the psychology of people living in tight-knit communities here than in writing historical fiction.
Burns was born in Belfast and is the author of two other novels, No Bones and Little Constructions, and of the novella, Mostly Hero. No Bones won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Burns lives in East Sussex, England.
Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan begins her epic tale with an account of her eponymous narrator’s time as a field slave on a plantation in Barbados. But this is more steampunk sci-fi than traditional historical novel, as Washington Black makes his escape in a fantastical flying machine he has helped to invent, and begins a voyage into freedom.
Edugyan was born in Calgary to Ghanaian parents, in 1977. Her novel Half Blood Blues won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize among other accolades. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia.
Edugyan appears here at London Literature Festival on 18 October. find out more
At the heart of this structurally inventive novel is Gretel, a lexicographer who thinks she has put her troubled childhood behind her until a phone call from a hospital brings back memories. This story of mother-daughter estrangement reworks the Oedipus myth as Gretel becomes obsessed with piecing together her past and working out what exactly happened to her mother.
Johnson was born in Devon in 1990. Her debut short story collection, Fen, was published in 2016 and Everything Under is her first novel. She is the winner of the Harper’s Bazaar Short Story Prize, the A.M. Heath prize and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. She currently lives in Oxford.
At the heart of The Mars Room is narrator Romy, a single mother working as a lap dancer at the Mars Room until she is imprisoned after killing her stalker. The brutal portrayal of life behind bars (Kushner spent time in women’s prisons to get the details right) is tempered with moments of humour – but at its heart this novel is about the lack of choices American society presents to those living on the margins.
Kushner was born in the United States in 1968. Her first two novels, Telex from Cuba and The Flamethrowers, were both shortlisted for the National Book Award and her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s and The Paris Review. She lives in Los Angeles.
In The Overstory, the stories of trees and the people who fight to save the few remaining acres of America’s virgin forest come together in a series of interlocking tales. The action takes place from antebellum New York to the late-20th century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, revealing a world alongside our own – vast, slow, resourceful, magnificently inventive and almost invisible to us.
Powers was born in Illinois, in 1957. He is the author of twelve novels, including Orfeo (which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014), and has been a Pulitzer Prize and four-time National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.
Mixing verse and prose - and initially released on the publisher’s poetry list - The Long Take follows D-Day veteran Walker as he crosses America trying to piece his life together after the traumas of war. He observes a country that is beginning to come apart, where old certainties are being replaced by social and racial division, corruption and collapsing inner cities.
Robertson was born in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1955. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has published five collections of poetry and has received a number of honours, including all three Forward Prizes for poetry. His selected poems, Sailing the Forest, was published in 2014. He lives in London.