The Booker Prize shortlist has been revealed with Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie in the running for the £50,000 prize.
Atwood's The Testaments (Chatto & Windus), which will be published on Tuesday 10th September, faces competition from fellow former winner Rushdie with Quichotte (Jonathan Cape) in the first year the prize has been sponsored by charitable foundation Crankstart.
Indie press Galley Beggar Press scored a nomination with Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport. The 1,000-page, single-sentence monologue is the fifth novel by Illinois-born Ellmann who now resides in Edinburgh. As a UK and US author she is the only representative from America on the list.
Elif Shafak's 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking) and Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton) also made the shortlist, with Nigerian novelist Chigozie Obioma recognised for his “magnificent, original and revelatory novel” An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown).
Chair of judges Peter Florence said 2019 has been "the most extraordinary year of entries" with the "range of scope a testament to a vibrant and deeply adventurous publishing industry".
Women dominate this year's shortlist, with four of the six-strong shortlist written by women. Penguin Random House scooped four nominations with shortlisted titles from their Chatto & Windus, Jonathan Cape, Hamish Hamilton and Viking imprints.
Jeanette Winterson missed out on the shortlist after making her longlist debut for Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape), with former Granta publisher Max Porter's Lanny (Faber) also missing out. Touching on the authors who made the longlist, including Deborah Levy, John Lanchester and Oyinkan Braithwaite, Florence said he "commends them to all readers".
The shortlist was announced this morning (Tuesday 3rd September) by Florence, at a press conference at London’s British Library. He said: “Like all great literature, these books teem with life, with a profound and celebratory humanity.”
Florence added: “The common thread is our admiration for the extraordinary ambition of each of these books. There is an abundance of humour, of political and cultural engagement, of stylistic daring and astonishing beauty of language. Like all great literature, these books teem with life, with a profound and celebratory humanity. We have a shortlist of six extraordinary books and we could make a case for each of them as winner, but I want to toast all of them as 'winners'. Anyone who reads all six of these books would be enriched and delighted, would be awe-struck by the power of story, and encouraged by what literature can do to set our imaginations free.”
He told The Bookseller he was "astonished" by how contemporary and diverse the shortlist turned out to be. He said: "The entire submission was vastly varied. It's not like these stood out because they were different from let. That speaks to the health of the English language around the world and both anglophone and internationalist literary cultures."
Florence added the scale of ambition on show was huge and all the authors were "really pushing the limits of what they're capable of". He said: "They are teeming with humanity. Peoples lives and fresh lives that feel like real lives experience are in every page of everyone of these books and the voices are fresh and compelling."
He said: "I’d say publishing was in an incredibly strong position and they’ve done some fantastic work on these books."
Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, added: “It was hard to watch the judges narrow down their longlist to this shortlist: they were so committed to all 13 of the books they’d chosen just over a month ago that the discussion was intense. Still, these six remain extraordinary: they bring news of different worlds; they carry a wealth of lives and voices; they’re in conversation, in various ways, with other works of literature. I think it’s fair to say that the judges weren’t looking for anything in particular – they entered this process with an open mind – but this is what they found: a set of novels that is political, orchestral, fearless, felt. And now, by association, those six will be in fruitful conversation with one another.”
Waterstones fiction buyer Bea Carvalho said this year's shortlist is "truly representative of the scope and ambition of this year’s fiction publishing".
She said: "The inclusion of two Booker winners gives the list real gravitas – and it’s exciting to see them rubbing shoulders with some less widely known authors whose careers are now set to be propelled to new commercial heights.
"We’re especially pleased to see The Testaments on the shortlist as the countdown to its publication enters its final week: we hardly needed confirmation of its quality but the judges’ endorsement makes us even more excited to read it and share it with our customers. Its release is the literary event of the year, and it is yet another fantastic talking point that it hits the shelves with a major prize shortlisting under its belt already.
"10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World has been a favourite this year, and we’re thrilled to see Shafak’s immense talent recognised by the Booker Prize with her first shortlisting. Of all the shortlisted titles already published, this one has seen the greatest sales uplift since its longlisting with sales improving by 170% week on week after the announcement."
Touching on the longlisted titles that just missed out on the shortlist, Carvalho said: "We’re a bit surprised by some of the omissions, especially Lanny which we had pegged as a strong contender since reading it almost a year ago, and Deborah Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything which has struck a real chord with our customers since publishing last week. Milkman was our bestselling Booker winner in recent years, and the astronomical uplift in sales demonstrates the prizes’ influence and reach. We’re excited to see the impact that the shortlist news has on the lives of these six brilliant books, all of which would be very deserving winners.”
The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The 2019 winner will be announced on 14th October at an awards ceremony at London’s Guildhall, where they will be awarded £50,000. Last year’s prize went to Anna Burns’ Milkman (Faber).
Also judging the 151 entries were former fiction publisher and editor Liz Calder; novelist, essayist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo; writer, broadcaster and former barrister Afua Hirsch and concert pianist, conductor and composer Joanna MacGregor.
The shortlist comes seven months after it was revealed that the Man Group would be replaced as sponsor by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Sir Michael Moritz's charitable foundation Crankstart in a five-year deal.