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Dhaka Tribune

Booker Prize 2021: The nominated books are 'immersive'

The shortlist of six finalists for this year's Booker Prize, the UK's most prestigious prize for English-language novels, is marked by dominance of American writers for the second year in a row.

Update : 25 Sep 2021, 06:19 PM

The books on this year's list are about war, trauma, racism and social media, among other themes. The list includes one writer from Sri Lanka, one from South Africa, one British author and three American writers, reports BBC. Longlisted author Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro missed out the shortlist.

This year’s nominees are Anuk Arudpragasam (Sri Lanka), Damon Galgut (South Africa), Patricia Lockwood (USA), Maggie Shipstead (USA), Nadifa Mohamed (UK), and Richard Powers (USA).

Terming the shortlisted books “immersive”, Maya Jasanoff, chair of this year’s Booker Prize judging panel, said she’d felt these novels transported her to places at a time when most people were confined to home, according to BBC.

The judging panel also included Dr Rowan Williams, Natasha McElhone, Chigozie Obioma and Horatia Harrod.

According to a statement published on The Booker Prize’s official website, the judges will reveal the winning book during a prize ceremony at the BBC Radio Theatre on November 3rd.

Here’s what the shortlisted books are about:

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books)

Sri Lankan Tamil novelist Anuk Arudpragasam’s second novel follows Krishan, a young Srilankan man, as he travels from Colombo to a village in Sri Lanka’s northern province to attend the funeral of his grandmother’s caretaker. The story reflects the lasting effects of the trauma and scars of his country's civil war; it’s also about identity and a past love that wasn't reciprocated. There's not much dialogue; the prose is philosophical and mesmerisingly lyrical. In an interview with the Paris Review, Anuk has called the book an unbearable book.

The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus, Vintage)

The story follows a white family from the Apartheid era. The title, The Promise, refers to the promise a father made to a dying mother which remains unfulfilled for decades, and ultimately, becomes worthless. According to Obioma, "The ultimate question that the novel asks is, is justice - true justice - possible in this world?" The South African was nominated for the Booker Prize twice before. 

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Publishing)

American poet Patricia Lockwood’s debut novel was also nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2021. No One Is Talking About This follows a woman who has shot to fame on the Internet. Her life is forever changed when a family member is diagnosed with a serious illness. The book is auto-fictional; it poignantly explores what really matters in life and what doesn't. This book is either a hit or a miss for most people.

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers)

Maggie Shipstead's third novel is told in two different timelines and narrative styles, intertwining the stories of a post-war pilot and a 21st century Hollywood actress. The latter is attempting to reboot her career by making a film about the former. In an interview with NPR, Shipstead said her novel was inspired by Amelia Earhart, also known as Lady Lindy, who was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. At 600 pages, it is probably the longest book on the list.

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin)

Nadifa Mohamed’s brand new novel is a murder mystery based on a true event. Set in the 1950s in Cardiff Bay, it is about a young Somali man who is a former merchant seaman but is accused of a crime he did not commit. Behind all the love lost and courtroom drama, the book explores the larger issues faced commonly by Somali immigrants in Europe by telling the story of a particular young man and the injustices he suffered nearly 60 years ago.

Bewilderment by Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann)

In so many ways, Bewilderment is the follow-up to The Overstory (2018), which won him a Pulitzer. It's as environmentally conscious as his previous work, but with a more intimate feel. This book is about a father and a son who journey together to many interesting places, including other planets. The book asks its readers an essential question: What are we doing to our children?

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