The Booker Foundation has launched a search for the best of the best to mark the English literary prize’s 50th year this year.
Sadly South African novelist JM Coetzee, the first writer to win the Man Booker prize twice – in 1983 for Life & Times of Michael K, and in 1999 for Disgrace – didn’t make the shortlist of five books nominated for the once-off Golden Man Booker Prize.
But Hilary Mantel, who won it in 2009 for Wolf Hall and in 2012 for Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to her Henry VIII/ Thomas Cromwell saga, has been nominated for Wolf Hall.
The idea of the Golden Man Booker Prize was to select the best book for each decade of the prize’s existence, and each judge was allocated one decade of winners to choose from. In a tribute to the power of the prize, all 51 winners are still in print.
The five books to make the shortlist are: In a Free State by VS Naipul (1971); Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively (1987); The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992); Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel 2009; and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017).
Coetzee – and Australian writer Peter Carey who has also won the Booker twice – needn’t feel too badly about not making the shortlist. Novels their works were in competition with included Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist (1974); The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978); Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981); The God of Small things by Arundhati Roy (1997); Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002); and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (2014).
The five judges were writer and editor Robert McCrum (1970s); poet Lemn Sissay MBE (1980s); novelist Kamila Shamsie (1990s); broadcaster and novelist Simon Mayo (2000s); and poet Hollie McNish (2010s).
The shortlist was announced at the Hay Festival in the UK on May 26. From now until June 25 readers are asked to reread these top five novels, and then submit their vote for the overall winner of five decades of the prize, which will be announced at the Man Booker 50 Festival at London’s South Bank Centre on July 8.
To participate, send your vote to the Man Booker Prize website (themanbookerprize.com). The website features videos of each judge discussing their choice. – Vivien Horler