In celebration the 50th Anniversary of the Man Booker prize some canny administrators decided it would be swell to pit all previous winners against one other for a literary back-pat to stand the test of time.
Derided by some as a publicity stunt, the award will nevertheless carry an enduring gravitas as the Booker of Bookers (thus far, anyway). As the judges announce their controversial shortlist at the Hay Literary Festival this month, it’s prime time to take to social media for a good whinge. The list could be said to reflect a certain contemporary bias as there are several surprise outs and ins. But the good news is the final winner will be decided by the public, who have until early July to submit their vote.
Unsurprisingly, Hilary Mantel and Michael Ondaatje find themselves in the final five. What is surprising is the exemption of Salman Rushdie, whose Midnight’s Children was once considered the best novel of the twentieth century. Other eyebrow-raising slights include J. M. Coetzee, Kingsley Amis, Margaret Atwood, Anita Brookner, Peter Carey, William Golding, Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro and Thomas Keneally for Schindler’s Ark.
I have to admit I’m not in full support of the shortlisted five, my dislike for Michael Ondaatje’s particular brand of navel-gazing melancholy a case in point. But whether or not you agree with the selection at least you can have some say in the final showdown.
So without further ado, here be the Golden Booker Shortlist:
- In a Free State, V.S. Naipaul (1971)
- Moon Tiger, Penelope Lively (1987)
- The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje (1992)
- Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel (2009)
- Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders (2017)