Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie Lead Booker Prize Shortlist

The 2019 winner will be announced on October 14.
Booker Prize shortlist
Booker Prize shortlist

The Booker Prize shortlist of six books was announced on Tuesday afternoon. It includes two major names—Margaret Atwood for her much-awaited The Testaments, the sequel to her dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale, and Salman Rushdie for Quichotte, a retelling of Don Quixote.

The rest of the shortlist includes Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities, which our reviewer called “a compelling read”, and Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, which has received a lot of attention for its unusual structure—it’s a 1,000 page novel made up of just one sentence.

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Turkish writer Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World and Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other are the other two books on the list.

The winner of the £50,000 prize (around Rs43 lakh) will be announced on October 14 in London.

The full shortlist:

1. Margaret Atwood, The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)

2. Lucy Ellmann, Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)

3. Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)

4. Chigozie Obioma, An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)

5. Salman Rushdie, Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)

6. Elif Shafak, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)

Last year’s prize was won by Irish writer Anna Burns for The Milkman, a coming-of-age story of a bookish girl in Northern Ireland during the bloody ‘Troubles’.

There’s no doubt that the biggest draw on the shortlist is Atwood’s sequel to her 1985 book, which has gone on to become a cult classic in the years since its publication.

Details of The Testaments were kept under wraps ahead of its publication on 10 September, although the strict embargo was broken after retailer Amazon shipped out a few hundred preordered copies early. The book’s inclusion on the Booker Prize longlist in July had helped whip up more excitement around its release.

The book, set 15 years after the final scene in The Handmaid’s Tale, had a midnight release, à la the Harry Potter phenomenon. People queued up outside the the Piccadilly branch of Waterstones ahead of the launch, and Atwood released the book, surrounded by women in the red Handmaids’ outfits. The costumes are familiar even to people who haven’t read the book, from the TV show which just finished three seasons. Political protesters have also worn the costume to protest abortion bans in many states in the US.

A surprise exclusion from the longlist is reader favourite Lanny by Max Porter, which had widely been expected to make the cut. In her review for The Guardian, Alexandra Harris had described the book as “a fable, a collage, a dramatic chorus, a joyously stirred cauldron of words”.

Rushdie’s Quichotte released in August to mixed reviews. Reviewing it for The New York Times, Parul Sehgal said that “the flamboyance that once felt so free now seems strenuous and grating”. Kirkus, however, had some positive words for the book, calling it a “splendid mess that, in the end, becomes a meditation on storytelling, memory, truth, and other hallmarks of a disappearing civilization”.

Some readers on Twitter have been expressing their disappointment at the addition of Rushdie to the list at the cost of their favourites.

When the longlist of 13 books was published in July, The Guardian’s Justine Jordan wrote that there were few surprises in the line-up “dominated by established authors”.