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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Books In The News: The Man Booker International Prize

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Posted by Alana T.

Wednesday 23 July 2014, marks a historic moment for the Man Booker Prize, as it announced its first global longlist. For the first time in its 46 year history, the £50,000 (approximately $84,000) prize has been opened up to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK.  Previously, the prize was open to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.

First awarded in 1969, the prize is recognised as the touchstone for high quality literary fiction written in English. Its canon contains many of the literary trailblazers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The rules of the prize changed at the end of 2013, to embrace ‘the freedom of English in all its vigour, its vitality, its versatility and its glory wherever it may be’, opening up to writers beyond the UK and Commonwealth.  For the first time, American authors are eligible for the prize and represent five of the 13 nominations.  The five books are:

The Dog by Joseph O'Neill.  Distraught by a breakup with his long-term girlfriend, our unnamed hero leaves New York to take an unusual job in a strange desert metropolis. In Dubai at the height of its self-invention as a futuristic Shangri-la, he struggles with his new position as the “family officer” of the capricious and very rich Batros family.

Orfeo by Richard Powers.  Powers tells the story of a man journeying into his past as he desperately flees the present. Composer Peter Els opens the door one evening to find the police on his doorstep. His home microbiology lab the latest experiment in his lifelong attempt to find music in surprising patterns has aroused the suspicions of Homeland Security.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris.  Paul O'Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn't know how to live in it. He's a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God. Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online "Paul" might be a better version of the real thing.

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt.  After years of watching her work ignored or dismissed by critics, Burden conducts an experiment she calls Maskings: she presents her own art behind three male masks, concealing her female identity. The three solo shows are successful, but when Harriet Burden finally steps forward triumphantly to reveal herself as the artist behind the exhibitions, there are critics who doubt her.

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