A graphic novel was longlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction for the first time, with Nick Drnaso’s novel Sabrina in contention for the prestigious award.
The US cartoonist was among the 13 authors longlisted for the prize which markets itself as the leading literary award in the English-speaking world.
He is up against Michael Ondaatje, longlisted just weeks after he won the Golden Booker – a one-off accolade to mark the prize’s 50th anniversary – for his 1992 award joint-winner The English Patient.
The Canadian’s seventh novel, Warlight, is on a list featuring four debut works and four authors under the age of 30.
Six longlisted writers were from Britain, three are from the United States and there are two each from Ireland and Canada.
Seven of the 13 authors are women.“Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the times, there were many dystopian fictions on our bookshelf – and many novels we found inspirational as well as disturbing,” said philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, who chairs the five-strong judging panel.
“Some of those we have chosen for this longlist feel urgent and topical, others might have been admired and enjoyed in any year.”All of these books … capture something about a world on the brink.”
The other judges are crime writer Val McDermid; cultural critic Leo Robson; feminist writer Jacqueline Rose, and artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton.
The judges said it was only a matter of time before a graphic novel was longlisted.
“Sabrina makes demands on the reader in precisely the way all good fiction does. Oblique, subtle, minimal, unmanipulative: the style of the pictures is the book’s worldview,” they said.
The novel is described as “the story of what happens when an intimate, ‘everyday’ tragedy collides with the appetites of the 24-hour news cycle”.
Until 2013, the Booker Prize was awarded for the best original full-length novel written in English by a citizen of the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland or Zimbabwe.
But the field was then widened to any novel originally written in English and published in Britain.
The move was a bid to stamp the prize’s authority as the English-speaking world’s foremost literary award, crucially by opening it to US writers.
The rules have been changed this year to include books published in Ireland.
The winner receives US$65,600 (RM264,000) and the award all but guarantees an upsurge in book sales and worldwide readership.
George Saunders won the 2017 prize with Lincoln in the Bardo.
The shortlist will be announced on Sept 20. The winner will be revealed at a dinner at London’s Guildhall on Oct 16. – AFP