A graceful novel about a squash prodigy battling grief on court, a dystopia that reimagines Ireland as a totalitarian state and a coming-of-age tale about a neurodiverse teenager are among 13 titles longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.
The longlist, announced in a news release on Tuesday, features only a handful of novels by celebrated authors, including Sebastian Barry’s “Old God’s Time,” about a retired policeman confronting painful memories, and Paul Harding’s “This Other Eden,” about a mixed-race community that faces eviction from its island home.
Instead, the list is dominated by works by lesser-known writers, including four debuts. Esi Edugyan, an author who is the chair of this year’s judges, said in the news release that the list was “defined by its freshness — by the irreverence of new voices, by the iconoclasm of established ones.”
All the nominated books “cast new light on what it means to exist in our time, and they do so in original and thrilling ways,” Edugyan added.
The four debut books are “If I Survive You,” by Jonathan Escoffery, about a Jamaican family in Miami; “Pearl,” by Sian Hughes, about a mother’s disappearance; “All the Little Bird-Hearts,” by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow, which is told from the perspective of a mother with autism; and “Western Lane,” by Chetna Maroo, about the grieving squash player and her family.
Among the other nominees are “How to Build a Boat,” by Elaine Feeney, about a neurodiverse schoolboy and the teachers who help him, and the forthcoming “Prophet Song,” by Paul Lynch, about an Irish society falling under the grip of authoritarianism.
Founded in 1969, the Booker Prize is one of the world’s most coveted literary awards, given each year to the author of a novel written in English and published in Britain or Ireland. It is often seen as the capstone of a writer’s career, but the award has also regularly made new literary stars. Recent winners have included Bernardine Evaristo, Douglas Stuart and Marlon James.
Last year, the Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka won the prize with “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida,” a satire exploring the trauma of his country’s civil war. After the announcement, the book’s sales jumped to more than 100,000 copies and it has now been translated into 19 languages, the Booker Prize Foundation said in Tuesday’s news release.
This year’s judges will now narrow the longlist down to a six-book shortlist, scheduled to be revealed on Sep. 21. The winning book, whose author will receive a 50,000 pound prize, about $64,000, will be announced at a ceremony in London on Nov. 26.