Man Booker Prize 2015 shortlist extracts

Man Booker Prize 2015 shortlist extracts

Get a taste of the novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015 with these extracts.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Oneworld)

Is a hell of a thing when a gun come home to live with you. The people who live with you notice it first. The woman I live with talk to me different. Everybody talk to you different when them see a new bulge in you pants. No, it’s not that at all. When a gun come to live in the house it’s the gun, not even the person who keep it, that have the last word. It come between man and woman talk, not just serious reasoning but even a little thing.

—Dinner ready, she say.

—Me no hungry.


—I going need it warm when me finally hungry.

—Yes sah.

When a gun come to live in the house the woman you live with treat you different, not cold, but now she weigh word, measure it before talking to you. But a gun talk to the owner too, telling him first that you can never own this, that outside is plenty people who don’t have a gun but know you do, and one night they going come like Nicodemus and take it. Nobody ever own a gun. You don’t know that until you own one. If somebody give it to you and  that somebody can take it back. Another man can think is for him even when he seeing that is you control it. And he don’t sleep until he get it ’cause he can’t sleep. Gun hunger worse than woman hunger for at least maybe a woman might hungry for you back. At night me don’t sleep. Me stay up in the dark shadow, looking at it, rubbing it, seeing and waiting.


Satin Island by Tom McCarthy (Jonathan Cape)

1.1 Turin is where the famous shroud is from, the one showing Christ’s body supine after crucifixion: hands folded over genitals, eyes closed, head crowned with thorns. The image isn’t really visible on the bare linen. It only emerged in the late nineteenth century, when some amateur photographer looked at the negative of a shot he’d taken of the thing, and saw the figure—pale and faded, but there nonetheless. Only in the negative: the negative became a positive, which means that the shroud itself was, in effect, a negative already. A few decades later, when the shroud was radiocarbon dated, it turned out to come from no later than the mid-thirteenth century; but this didn’t trouble the believers. Things like that never do. People need foundation myths, some imprint of year zero, a bolt that secures the scaffolding that in turn holds fast the entire architecture of reality, of time: memory- chambers and oblivion-cellars, walls between eras, hallways that sweep us on towards the end-days and the coming whatever-it-is. We see things shroudedly, as through a veil, an over-pixellated screen. When the shapeless plasma takes on form and resolution, like a fish approaching us through murky waters or an image looming into view from noxious liquid in a darkroom, when it begins to coalesce into a figure that’s discernible, if ciphered, we can say: This is it, stirring, looming, even if it isn’t really, if it’s all just ink-blots.

1.2 One evening, a few years ago, I found myself stuck in Turin. Not in the city, but the airport: Torino-Caselle. Lots of other people did too: nothing was taking off. The phrase Await Announcements multi- plied, stacked up in columns on the information screens, alternately in English and Italian. What was causing the delay was a rogue aero- plane, some kind of private jet, which, ignoring all instructions, was flying in idiosyncratic patterns over Southern England and the Channel; which meant that no other planes could penetrate that swathe of airspace; which in turn, via the series of switches and transfers and re-routings that had been put in place to deal with the whole situation, had spread a huge delay-cloud over Europe. So I sat, like everyone else, sifting through airline- and airport-pages on my laptop for enlight- enment about our quandary—then, when I’d exhausted these, clicking through news sites and social pages, meandering along corridors of trivia, generally killing time.


The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Pushkin Press)

We were fishermen: My brothers and I became fishermen in January of 1996 after our father moved out of Akure, a town in the west of Nigeria, where we had lived together all our lives. His employer, the Central Bank of Nigeria, had transferred him to a branch of the bank in Yola—a town in the north that was a camel distance of more than one thousand kilometres away—in the first week of November of the previous year. I remember the night Father returned home with his transfer letter; it was on a Friday. From that Friday through that Saturday, Father and Mother held whispering consultations like shrine priests. By Sunday morning, Mother emerged a different being. She’d acquired the gait of a wet mouse, averting her eyes as she went about the house. She did not go to church that day, but stayed home and washed and ironed a stack of Father’s clothes, wearing an impenetrable gloom on her face. Neither of them said a word to my brothers and me, and we did not ask. My brothers—Ikenna, Boja, Obembe—and I had come to understand that when the two ventricles of our home—our father and our mother—held silence as the ventricles of the heart retain blood, we could flood the house if we poked them. So, at times like these, we avoided the television in the eight-columned shelf in our sitting room. We sat in our rooms, studying or feigning to study, anxious but not asking questions. While there, we stuck out our antennae to gather whatever we could of the situation.


The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (Picador)

Randeep Sanghera stood in front of the green-and-blue map tacked to the wall. The map had come with the flat, and though it was big and wrinkled, and cigarette butts had once stubbed black islands into the mid Atlantic, he’d kept it, a reminder of the world outside. He was less sure about the flowers, guilty-looking things he’d spent too long choosing at the petrol station. Get rid of them, he decided, but then heard someone was parking up outside and the thought flew out of his head.
He went down the narrow staircase, step by nervous step, straightening his cuffs, swallowing hard. He could see a shape through the mottled glass. When he opened the door Narinder Kaur stood before him, brightly etched against the night, coat unbuttoned despite the cold. So, even in England she wore a kesri. A domed deep-green one that matched her salwaar kameez. A flank of hair had come loose from under it and curled about her ear. He’d forgotten how large, how clever, her eyes were. Behind her, the taxi made a U-turn and retreated down the hill. Narinder brought her hands together underneath her chin – ‘Sat sri akal’ – and Randeep nodded and took her suitcase and asked if she might follow him up the stairs.


A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (Chatto & Windus)

So Denny came home. The first time, he came alone. Abby was disappointed that he didn’t bring Susan, but Red said he was glad. “It makes this visit  different from those last ones,” he said. “Like he’s getting squared away with us first. He’s not taking it for granted that he can just pick up where he left off.”

He had a point. Denny did seem different— more cautious, more considerate of their feelings. He commented on little improvements around the house. He said he liked Abby’s new hairstyle. (She had started wearing it short.) He himself had lost the boyish sharpness along his jaw, and he had a more settled way of walking. When Abby asked him questions— though she tried her best to ration them— he made an effort to answer. He wasn’t what you’d call chatty, but he answered. Susan was doing great, he said. She was attending preschool now. Yes, he could bring her to visit. Carla was fine too, although they were not together anymore. Work? Well, at the moment he was working for a construction firm.
“Construction!” Abby said. “Hear that, Red? He’s working in construction!”  Red merely grunted. He didn’t look as happy about this as he might have.

Notice all that was missing, though, from what Denny had told them. How much did he really have to do with his daughter? And a spool of blue thread when he said he and Carla were “not together,” did he mean they were divorced? Just what were his living arrangements? Was construction his chosen career now? Had he given up on college? Then Jeannie came over with little Deb, and Red and Abby left them alone, and by the end of her visit they knew more. He had a lot to do with Susan, Jeannie reported; he was very much involved in her life. Divorce was too expensive, for now. He shared half a house with two other guys but they were starting to get on his nerves. Sure, he would finish college. Someday.


A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador)

At night, as beneath him his parents completed their routines, the banging of the old pipes as they washed their faces and the sudden thunk into silence as they turned down the living-room radiators better than any clock at indicating that it was eleven, eleven thirty, midnight, he made lists of what he needed to resolve, and fast, in the following year: his work (at a standstill), his love life (nonexistent), his sexuality (unresolved), his future (uncertain). The four items were always the same, although sometimes their order of priority changed. Also consistent was his abil¬ity to precisely diagnose their status, coupled with his utter inability to provide any solutions.

The next morning he’d wake determined: today he was going to move out and tell his parents to leave him alone. But when he’d get downstairs, there would be his mother, making him breakfast (his father long gone for work) and telling him that she was buying the tickets for their annual trip to St. Barts today, and could he let her know how many days he wanted to join them for? (His parents still paid for his vacations. He knew better than to ever mention this to his friends.)