Two first-time female authors feature on the 2017 Man Booker Prize fiction shortlist, which comprises three women and three men, including bestselling American writer Paul Auster.
Subjects this year range from the struggle of a family trying to retain its self-sufficiency in rural England to a love story between two refugees fleeing civil war.
In the fourth year that the £50,000 (RM278,000) prize has been open to writers of any nationality, the shortlist is made up of two Britons, one Britain-based Pakistani, and three American writers.
Auster’s 4321 offers four versions of one young man’s life while fellow US author Emily Fridlund’s debut novel, History Of Wolves, is a coming-of-age tale of a teenage girl seeking a place to belong.
Elmet, the first book by British author Fiona Mozley, tells the story of a father and his two children who clash with landowners after they build a home for themselves.
London-based Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid is on the list with Exit West in which refugees can use doors to escape to other parts of the world.
Acclaimed short story writer George Saunders’ first novel, Lincoln In The Bardo, is about President Abraham Lincoln and the death of his 11-year-old son, Willie, at the dawn of the American Civil War, in 1861.
Scottish writer Ali Smith is on the shortlist for the fourth time, this year with Autumn, a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive.
The Man Booker Prize is awarded each year for the best original novel, written in the English language and published in Britain. It is one of the world’s most prestigious English-language literary awards, and the winner is guaranteed a huge increase in global sales that dwarfs prize money.
Founded in 1969 and originally open only to writers from Britain, Ireland, and the Commonwealth, the Booker expanded in 2014 to include all English-language authors. Its first American winner was Paul Beatty’s The Sellout in 2016.
The change spurred fears among some British writers and publishers that it would bring US dominance to a prize whose previous winners include Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri, Margaret Atwood, and Hilary Mantel.
House of Lords member Baroness Lola Young, chairwoman of the judging panel, said “nationality is not an issue” in considerations.
“We judge the books that are submitted to us,” she said. “We make our judgment based not on anybody’s nationality or their gender or anything else, other than what is written on those pages,” she said when the list was announced on Wednesday (Sept 13).
This year, 30% of the 144 books submitted by publishers were American, slightly down on last year.
Of the selection, Young said: “With six unique and intrepid books that collectively push against the borders of convention, this year’s shortlist both acknowledges established authors and introduces new voices to the literary stage.
“Playful, sincere, unsettling, fierce: here is a group of novels grown from tradition but also radical and contemporary. The emotional, cultural, political and intellectual range of these books is remarkable, and the ways in which they challenge our thinking is a testament to the power of literature,” she added.
The winner will be announced on Oct 17 in London.
The six titles
Ali Smith (Britain) Autumn (publisher: Hamish Hamilton)
Emily Fridlund (US) History Of Wolves (publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Fiona Mozley (Britain) Elmet (publisher: J.M. Originals)
George Saunders (US) Lincoln In The Bardo (publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing)
Mohsin Hamid (Britain-Pakistan) Exit West (publisher: Hamish Hamilton)
Paul Auster (US) 4321 (publisher: Faber & Faber) – Agencies