Kazuo Ishiguro won the first Booker Prize in 1989 for The Remains of the Day. Thirty-one years later, the British author is shortlisted for the £ 50,000 prize with Klara and the Sun, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The Ishiguro Story of an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” who is bought as a companion for a 14-year-old girl, is one of 13 novels in the running for this year’s Booker, the world’s most popular book prize. most prestigious in the UK. The author, who has been shortlisted three times, has been praised by the judges for her “haunting narrative voice – a genuinely innocent and egoless perspective on the bizarre behavior of humans obsessed and hurt by power, status and power. fear “.
“This is not just a novel about a technological future,” said Judge Rowan Williams, writer and former Archbishop of Canterbury. “It’s a novel about power, the nature of personality, about freedom and about love.”
Ishiguro makes the cut alongside heavyweight names, from Richard Powers, chosen for the yet to be released Bewilderment, on a widowed astrobiologist trying to raise his nine-year-old son, to competing Rachel Cusk for second place, in which a woman invites an artist to visit the remote coastal region where she lives.
Sally Rooney, who was nominated for the Booker for her novel Normal People in 2018, was overlooked by the judges for her third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, which will be released in September. The judges also rejected Don DeLillo’s short novel, The Silence.
“Most of us had a favorite novel or two that really stood out on us, but we couldn’t persuade others, or sometimes there was a novel where we thought it was a really, really good novel and all. totally satisfying, but does that really break new ground or change the horizon in the way we hope a Booker winner would? Williams said.
“When you think about what the Booker has won over the years, you want something that sets a slightly cool marker… That doesn’t mean you’re looking for novelty for itself. The other thing about a Booker winner is that it should be a book that people love to read, call me old fashioned if you will. You don’t want something so experimental that it is very satisfying for the author and some super-sophisticated reviewers. You want something that will make people turn the pages.
Booker Prize Foundation director Gaby Wood said that while Booker’s recent long lists have “drawn attention to various elements of novelty in the novel: the experimentalism of form, the work in unprecedented genres , The Early Authors, ”this year’s list was“ most notable for the captivating stories within it, for the geographic breadth of its views, and for its recognition of writers who have worked at an exceptionally high standard for many years. years ”.
The Booker’s global lineup ranges from A Passage North by Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam, in which Krishan travels from Colombo to the war-torn Northern Province for a funeral, to The Promise by two-time author Damon Galgut. preselected by Booker. Set on a farm outside of Pretoria, The Promise tells the story of a white South African family who broke their promise to the black woman who worked for them all of their life.
Galgut is joined on the long list by fellow South African Karen Jennings, whose novel An Island, following an old lighthouse keeper who finds the unconscious body of a refugee on his beach, is published by the little one. independent Holland House Books.
The book world has long complained about the Booker’s decision to open its doors to American authors. This year, five British authors are on the long list, along with four Americans. Ishiguro and the Anglo-Canadian Cusk novels are joined by Light Perpetual from fellow Britons Francis Spufford, who imagines a future for five children killed in the blitz, China Room by Sunjeev Sahota, which weaves the story of a young bride into the rural Punjab of 1929 with that of a young man in 1999, and The Fortune Men by Anglo-Somali author Nadifa Mohamed, in which Mahmood Mattan is suspected of murdering a merchant at Tiger Bay in Cardiff in 1952.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Powers are joined by fellow Americans Patricia Lockwood, chosen for her buzzing debut No One is Talking About This, in which real life intrudes into the world of a woman known for her viral social media posts, Maggie The Shipstead Story of a Female Aviator Who Disappears in 1950 While Attempting to Fly Around the World, Great Circle, and Nathan Harris’ debut novel, The Sweetness of Water, takes place taking place at the end of the American Civil War.
The long list is rounded out with A Town Called Solace by Canadian author Mary Lawson, which is set in northern Ontario in 1972, when eight-year-old Clara’s sister Rose went missing.
Williams and her fellow judges – President Maya Jasanoff, the historian; writer and editor Horatia Harrod; actor Natascha McElhone; novelist and teacher Chigozie Obioma – read 158 books to build their long list of 13.
According to Jasanoff, the books are united in “their power to absorb the reader into an unusual story, and to do so in a crafty and distinctive voice.”
“Many of them reflect on how people grapple with the past – whether it be personal experiences of mourning or dislocation or the historical legacy of slavery, apartheid and of civil war. Many examine intimate relationships under stress and, through them, meditate on ideas of freedom and obligation, or what makes us human, ”Jasanoff said. “It is especially resonant during the pandemic to note that all of these books have important things to say about the nature of the community, from the smallest and most isolated to the immeasurable expanse of cyberspace.”
The six-book shortlist will be announced on September 14 and the winner on November 3.