Calgary-born novelist Esi Edugyan named finalist for Man Booker Prize

Calgary-born novelist Esi Edugyan named finalist for Man Booker Prize
Canadas Esi Edugyan shortlisted for prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction
Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan, at home in Victoria, has been short listed for the Man Booker Prize for her book Washington Black.

Canadian author Esi Edugyan is among six authors on the short list for the Man Booker Prize for her book Washington Black.

With the shortlist comprising three writers from the UK, one from Canada and two from the US, the possibility of a third consecutive American winner remains open. The controversial 2013 decision to allow American writers to compete for the award was most recently criticised by previous winners Julian Barnes and Peter Carey, who called it an exercise in global corporate branding and daft at a Man Booker event in July. In February, a group of 30 publishers wrote to the prize organisers asking them to reconsider or risk a homogenised literary future.

This is the second time Ms. Edugyan, 40, has been on the short list for the £50,000 ($85,600) prize, which is awarded to writers of any nationality writing in English and published in the U.K. and Ireland. She was also a finalist in 2011 for her book Half-Blood Blues. That book won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Washington Black is also on the long list for this years Giller.

Born in 1990, and already winner of a clutch of prizes for her short-story collection Fen, Johnson is not the first 27-year old to make the final Booker line-up, although she is the youngest. In 2013, New Zealander Eleanor Catton became the youngest ever shortlisted writer at 27, going on to win the prize at aged 28 for her novel The Luminaries. Now living in Oxford, where she did a masters in creative writing, Johnson has said that she wanted to write about women who are mothers and daughters and who find it difficult to sit within those roles.

Canadian author Esi Edugyan shortlisted for 2018 Man Booker Prize for novel Washington Black

Edugyans achievement, in unfolding Washs story, is one full of contraries, said Leo Robson, one of this years judges. It is a novel of ideas but also of the senses, a yarn and a lament, a chase story that doubles as an intellectual quest, a history lesson in the form of a fairy tale. Moments of horrifying cruelty and violence sit alongside episodes of great tenderness and deep connection. A majestic grandeur is achieved with the lightest touch.

Washington Black is about an 11-year-old field slave in Barbados who finds himself selected as a personal servant of plantation master Englishman Christopher (Titch) Wilde. Mr. Wilde is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor and abolitionist, whose single-minded pursuit of the perfect aerial machine mystifies all around him. Titchs idealistic plans are soon shattered and Washington finds himself in mortal danger. They escape the island together, but then Titch disappears and Washington must make his way alone.

Judge and feminist writer Jacqueline Rose said it would have been impossible to pick a shortlist that didnt delve into the darker places of the world. It was across the board [in submissions] – unavoidable, said Rose. But hope is in the writing of the books – the fact people can go into this darkness and write about it. Were paying tribute to the books here, which have the courage to go into incredibly painful places.

In an earlier interview with The Globe and Mail, Edugyan explained that the protagonist, Washington, was inspired by a real-life historical figure. Andrew Bogle, a slave, had been taken from a Caribbean plantation to a British estate, where he lived as a servant. After he retired, he moved to Australia and became a key figure in the famous 19th-century Tichborne claimant case – where an Australian butcher claimed to be the long-lost heir to the Tichborne fortune.

Read more Johnsons debut was chosen ahead of bestselling longlisted novels from former winner Michael Ondaatje and the widely acclaimed young Irish novelist Sally Rooney. Following a lexicographers search for the mother she hasnt seen since she was 16, judge and crime writer Val McDermid called Everything Under a modern variation on Sophocles Oedipus, in which the natural world is evoked with sinister sensitivity.

She had already started and abandoned two novels after Half-Blood Blues. It wasnt the right material, she said.

The American finalists are Rachel Kushner’s prison story “The Mars Room” and Richard Powers’ tree-inspired tale “The Overstory” with the troubles-set story “Milkman” by Northern Ireland writer Anna Burns round out the list.

Edugyan has experienced her share of rejection. Before Half-Blood Blues was published – to great acclaim – it had been rejected by numerous Canadian publishers. It was finally picked up by Key Porter Books, but then the house went out of business.

It just seemed like it was the most cursed experience and the whole universe was just telling me: Why bother? Nobody wants this thing. So to have it turn around was massive for me. And then to actually have a readership that was huge and meaningful, I dont take that for granted. And I also understand how because it was the very same book that had been rejected was then accepted and did so well, I guess I understand how much luck also plays a part in success, she said, during that late-August interview at her home.

Edugyan previously appeared on the Man Booker short list in 2011 with her book “Half-Blood Blues,” which focused on a black jazz musician who goes missing after being arrested in Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

And I think because things took such a massive [swing] from rejection to the Giller Prize, I dont feel puffed up or anything about it, I think, because it was exactly the same material and the reaction is just so different.

A representative for Edugyan said the author was unavailable to comment on the recognition for “Washington Black” because she was currently on tour promoting the book.

Betting on the outcome of the Man Booker Prize is a major event in the U.K., but beware the bookmakers odds when it comes to actual books: Three favourites from the 13-strong long list were absent from the short list when it was announced this morning in London.

The author, who now lives in Victoria, B.C., joins three U.K. writers and two Americans on the short list, marking the second nomination for Edugyan’s book in recent days.

Favourite Michael Ondaatje (Warlight) did not make the list. Ondaatjes odds had likely been bolstered by his win earlier this year of the Golden Man Booker Prize (the Canadians 1992 novel The English Patient was voted, by the public, as the best winning novel in the prizes 50-year history).

There are some brilliant books here and, more importantly, some fantastic authors with a lot more to give the literary world

Women writers dominate 2018 Man Booker Prize shortlist

Nick Drnasos Sabrina, the first graphic novel ever to make the Booker long list, and Sally Rooneys highly regarded Normal People, both of which had also been bookies favourites, did not make the cut.

Sometimes the situation is that a good editor doesnt have long enough to spend on the book because of commercial pressures. Sometimes the editors are just not good enough – I think young editors coming through are not necessarily given the kind of training and experience-building apprenticeship that happened when I was starting out, for example.

Northern Irish author Anna Burns shortlisted for Man Booker Prize

Canadian Esi Edugyan did, however, with Washington Black, the eponymous tale of a gifted boy born into slavery in Barbados that the judges called ravishing. With the big fall literary award season only just underway, theres already a sense of history repeating for Edugyan, whose Half-blood Blues was shortlisted for the Booker in 2011, as well as for Canadas Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize and Governor-Generals Literary Award for Fiction. That same year, it took home Canadas Scotiabank Giller Prize, for which it beat out, among others, Michael Ondaatjes The Cats Table.

Robin Robertsons book is written in verse, the first such novel to be in contention for the prize, and the judges insisted it was a valid inclusion on the shortlist. It stretches the limits of what we think of as a novel, said Jacqueline Rose, one of the panel, who described it as a lyrical tribute to the power of writing.

A bonus Canadian connection comes in the form of Scottish poet Robin Robertson, who was a founding trustee of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, the administrator of Canadas Griffin Poetry Prize. Robertsons The Long Take, a novel in verse with photographs, was heralded by the Booker judges as offering a wholly unique literary voice and form. Canadian readers wont have to wait long to discover it for themselves: Publisher Anansi is moving forward an original 2019 release date to October.

The other five books in contention for the £50,000 prize are Milkman by Anna Burns, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, Everything Under by Daisy Johnson, The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner and The Long Take by Robin Robertson. Johnson, a 27-year-old debut novelist from Oxford, is the youngest author ever to be shortlisted for the award.

Edugyan and Robertson are joined on the short list by Anna Burns (Milkman); Daisy Johnson (Everything Under), who at 27 becomes the youngest author ever to make the short list (her Canadian release date also moves from 2019 to Oct. 23) ; Rachel Kushner (The Mars Room), and Richard Powers (The Overstory).

Two of the six shortlisted authors, Kushner and Powers, are from the US. Three are British and one, Edugyan, is Canadian. The rules were relaxed in 2015 to include US writers for the first time. The decision has been criticised by some British authors, but Appiah said nationality was irrelevant to the prize.

Man Booker shortlist revealed

At press time, Richard Powers is the bookies favourite and Kushner is the long shot. Tied for joint second place? Edugyan and Robertson. This years smart money might be on the Canadian connections.

And the other element is that some writers wont listen. So it could be any one of these three things or indeed a mixture of these three things, but its very visible when you read as many novels in as short a time as we have. The panel read more than 170 submissions.

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Kwame Anthony Appiah, the chairman of judges, said the panel agreed that the chastening pencil of an editor had been missing from many of the 170-plus submitted books which they have now whittled down to a shortlist of six.

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The jury chose a shortlist of four women and two men for this years prize, which is open to any fiction written in English and published in…

Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan has made the shortlist for the 2018 Man Booker Prize for her novel Washington Black. 

The £50,000 prize (approx. $86,990 Cdn) is awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language. 

Milkman is an impressive, wordy, often funny book and confirms Anna Burns as one of our rising literary stars, Irish Times reviewer Adrian McKinty said. Also in The Irish Times, Eoin McNamee wrote: I havent stopped talking about Anna Burnss astonishing Milkman. The voice is dazzling, funny, acute. You find yourself somewhere that is Belfast and is also its own elsewhere. Her characters are at the same time delineated with laser clarity and shadows of their own meaning. Like all great writing it invents its own context, becomes its own universe.

Washington Black is the story of an 11-year-old boy known as "Wash," who is enslaved on a Barbados sugar plantation. His master is Englishman Christopher Wilde, who is obsessed with developing a machine that can fly. When a man is killed, Wilde must choose between his family and saving Black's life — and the choice results in an epic adventure around the world for Wash. 

Edugyan was previously shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 for her novel Half-Blood Blues. 

Belfast author Anna Burns on Man Booker shortlist

Milkman by Anna Burns (U.K.) Everything Under by Daisy Johnson (U.K.)The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (U.S.)The Overstory by Richard Powers (U.S.)The Long Take by Robin Robertson (U.K.)The winner will be revealed on Oct. 16, 2018.

Louisa Joyner, Burnss editor at Faber, said: Milkman, like its author, couldnt be more deserving of the critical acclaim it has received and the huge honour that is a Man Booker shortlisting. Technically brilliant and emotionally painstaking in its precision, it is also of profound political importance. In a world where the question of an Irish border may define our relationships to the rest of the world, it should be required reading – not least for the cabinet and shadow cabinet.

This year's jury includes philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, crime writer Val McDermid, cultural critic Leo Robson, feminist writer and critic Jacqueline Rose and Canadian artist and writer Leanne Shapton.

Man Booker Prize 2018: Verbose authors told to cut long winded novels down to size

Michael Ondaatje was the other Canadian on the longlist, for his novel Warlight. Ondaatje previously won the Man Booker Prize in 1992, when his novel The English Patient tied with Barry Unsworth's Sacred Hunger for the prize.

Earlier this year, The English Patient was crowned the Golden Man Booker winner. The special one-off competition was designed to mark the 50th anniversary for the British literary prize. It placed the Man Booker Prize's previous 51 winners in a head-to-head battle to determine which has stood the test of time. 

The 2018 longlist marked the first time a graphic novel was recognized by the Man Booker Prize. Sabrina by American cartoonist Nick Drnaso, which explores what happens when the disappearance of a woman hits the daily news cycle, was released by the Canadian comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly.

Only two Canadians other than Ondaatje have won the prize since its inception in 1969: Yann Martel won in 2002 for Life of Pi and Margaret Atwood was recognized in 2000 for The Blind Assassin.

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