Devotees of The Handmaid’s Tale, both the novel by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood and the prize-winning TV series, will be delighted to know that a sequel, The Testaments, is on the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction’s longlist of 13 books announced today.
It is set 15 years after the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, but any summary of the story is forbidden until the novel comes out on September 10. The chair of the judges’panel, Hay festival director Peter Florence, was prepared – or allowed – to say only: “Spoiler discretion and a ferocious non-disclosure agreement prevent any description of who, how, why and even where. So this: it’s terrifying and exhilarating.”
This Atwood’s sixth nomination, and if she wins, it will be her second award, after The Blind Assassin in 2000.
Another writer in line for a second award is Salman Rushdie for Quichotte, a novel inspired by Cervantes’s Don Quixote, about an ageing salesman who falls in love with a TV star and drives across the United States to claim her. The judges described it as a “picaresque tour de force of contemporary America”.
Another wellknown writer nominated is Jeanette Winterson for Frankissstein, a new take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
There are a couple of challenges to readers. One novel is a 1 000-page single-sentence epic about a rattled American homemaker – Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, the only American on this list (and as The Guardian pointed out, she has dual British/American citizenship).
Another is Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, the stories of generations of black British woman told in free verse.
African writers get a look-in in the form of two Nigerian writers: Oyinkan Braithwaite for My Sister, The Serial Killer (he also has dual British nationality), and previously shortlisted Chigozie Obioma for An Orchestra of Minorities.
Obioma will be in Cape Town to attend the Open Book Festival from September 3 to 5. The Open Book programme for 2019 will be available in early August.
The Booker Prize, first awarded in 1969, is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK or Ireland. The longlist was chosen from 151 novels published between October last year and September 30 this year.
Florence, the chair of the judges, said of the list: “If you only read one book this year, make a leap. Read all 13 of these.
“There are Nobel candidates and debutants on this list. There are no favourites; they are all credible winners. They imagine our world, familiar from news cycle disaster and grievance, with wild humour, deep insight and a keen humanity. These writers offer joy and hope. They celebrate the rich complexity of English as a global language. They are exacting, enlightening and entertaining. Really – read all of them.”
The shortlist of six books will be announced on September 3, while the 2019 winner will be announced on October 14 at London’s Guildhall. He or she will receive £50 000 (about R865 000) and, the judges point out, can expect international recognition.
In the week before last year’s winner was announced, Anna Burns sold 963 copies of her novel Milkman. In the week after the announcement she sold 9 446, and more than 18 000 the week after that. The total number of copies of Milkman sold across all formats to now is 546 500.
The full longlist, known as the “Booker Dozen”, is:
- Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
- Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books)
- Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books)
- Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)
- Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)
- John Lanchester (UK), The Wall (Faber & Faber)
- Deborah Levy (UK), The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton)
- Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive (4th Estate)
- Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)
- Max Porter (UK), Lanny (Faber & Faber)
- Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)
- Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)
- Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape)
– Vivien Horler