Booker prize: New chapter with Americans on list

David Mitchell, David Nicholls and past winner Howard Jacobson are in the running for this year’s Man Booker Prize, as its new global embrace gives fewer than half the places on the longlist to Britons.

David Mitchell makes the Booker Prize longlist with 'The Bone Clocks'
David Mitchell makes the Booker Prize longlist with 'The Bone Clocks'
David Mitchell makes the Booker Prize longlist with 'The Bone Clocks'

A rule change has now opened the award to more international writers, enabling Americans to be included for the first time, with four US authors among the list of 13 announced.

Australian Richard Flanagan and two Irish writers Joseph O’Neill – who lives in New York – and Niall Williams make up the other non-British entries.

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They would have been eligible under the previous rules which allowed authors from the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland.

Organisers of the UK’s best-known fiction award – worth £50,000 to the winner – announced last year they were opening up the 46-year-old prize to writers of any nationality writing in English.

Among the Britons in contention is Paul Kingsnorth whose debut novel The Wake, written in his own made-up language based on Old English, was published by independent publisher Unbound after being financed through online crowdfunding.

The list features celebrated writer David Nicholls, whose novels One Day and Starter For 10 were adapted into movie hits, with his latest work Us earning him a place.

David Mitchell – in the running for The Bone Clocks – and Ali Smith – for How To Be Both – have each made the shortlist on two previous occasions.

Jacobson, who won the Booker in 2010 for The Finkler Question, has made the 2014 longlist for his book J.

The other British writer included by the six-strong judging panel, chaired by AC Grayling, is Calcutta-born Neel Mukherjee for The Lives Of Others.

It is the inclusion of American writers for the first time which will fuel much of the discussion about this year’s list.

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The hotly-tipped Donna Tartt book The Goldfinch failed to make it, but Joshua Ferris (for his book To Rise Again At A Decent Hour), Karen Joy Fowler (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves), Siri Hustvedt (The Blazing World) and Richard Powers (Orfeo) have all made the list.

Grayling said of the nominees: “This is a diverse list of ambition, experiment, humour and artistry. The novels selected are full of wonderful stories and fascinating characters.

“The judges were impressed by the high quality of writing and the range of issues tackled – from 1066 to the future, from a PoW camp in Thailand, to a dentist’s chair in Manhattan, from the funny to the deeply serious.”

The announcement last year that the Booker was dropping its geographical borders came in the wake of the launch of the Folio Prize – seen by many as a rival award – which attracted an international field.

There were also changes to the number of books which publishers could enter.

Jonathan Taylor, who chairs the Booker Prize Foundation, said: “Our new model, in recognising literary achievement, should encourage the traditional publishing houses while ensuring novels from new green-shoot publishers continue to be included.

“By including writers from around the world, the Man Booker Prize is reinforcing its standing as the most important literary award in the English-speaking world.”

Salman Rushdie – who won the prize in 1981 – said: “It’s a really great thing that finally we’ve got an English-language prize that doesn’t make a distinction for writers who are writing from a particular country.”

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Last year’s prize was won by New Zealander Eleanor Catton, who became the youngest victor at the age of 28 and her book The Luminaries, at 832 pages, was also the longest winner.