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A list of ‘small revolutions’: Booker prize announces 2023 longlist

The Booker Prize 2023 longlist of 13 novels focuses on original and thrilling new voices

Three of the 13 books included in the Booker Prize longlist 2023.
Three of the 13 books included in the Booker Prize longlist 2023. (International Booker Prize website)

The 2023 Booker Prize longlist has been announced and it includes 13 books from four continents, four Irish writers, four debut novelists as well as ten authors who have been recognised by the renowned prize for the first time.

Western Lane by London-based Indian-origin author Chetna Maroo, If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, Pearl by Siân Hughes, and All the Little Bird-Hearts by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow are the four debut books.

Also read: International Booker Prize 2023 shortlist: A quick primer

Kenya-born Maroo’s novel, set within the context of the British Gujarati milieu, has been praised by the Booker judges for its use of the sport of squash as a metaphor for complex human emotions. It revolves around an 11-year-old girl named Gopi and her bonds with her family.

Other titles include Sebastian Barry’s Old God’s Time, Paul Harding’s The Other Eden, Ayobami Adebayo’s A Spell of Good Things, Paul Lynch’s Prophet Song, Martin Macinnes’ In Ascension, Tan Twan Eng’s The House of Doors, Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting, Sarah Bernstein’s Study for Obedience, and Elaine Feeney’s How to Build a Boat.

The 13 books, with authors from Malaysia, Nigeria, Ireland, Canada, the US and the UK, explore universal and topical themes, from deeply moving personal dramas to tragicomic family sagas, the effects of climate change and the oppression of minorities.

“The list is defined by its freshness—by the irreverence of new voices, by the iconoclasm of established ones,” said twice Booker-shortlisted Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan.

“All 13 novels cast new light on what it means to exist in our time, and they do so in original and thrilling ways. Their range is vast, both in subject and form: they shocked us, made us laugh, and filled us with anguish, but above all, they stayed with us. This is a list to excite, challenge, delight, a list to bring wonder. The novels are small revolutions, each seeking to energise and awaken the language. Together—whether historical or contemporary—they offer startling portraits of the current,” she said.

Edugyan was joined on the judging panel by British actor, writer and director Adjoa Andoh; Hong Kong Chinese poet, lecturer, editor and critic Mary Jean Chan; American author and professor James Shapiro; and British actor and writer Robert Webb.  

Their selection was made from 163 books published between October 2022 and September 2023 and submitted by publishers. The Booker Prize is open annually to works of long-form fiction by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland. 

“The range of experience, expertise and sensibility among this year’s judges led them to seek novels that both advanced the form and allowed the reader to understand something about the world; books that would have impact and longevity; books that moved them—and above all, books of such excellence and subtlety that the judges looked forward to re-reading them,” said Gaby Wood, Chief Executive of the Booker Prize Foundation.

The longlist will be whittled down to a shortlist of six books, to be announced on 21 September at an event at the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery in London. The shortlisted authors will each receive GBP 2,500 and a specially-bound edition of their book.

The 2023 Booker Prize winner will be announced on November 26 at an award ceremony in London. The winner receives GBP 50,000 and a trophy named “Iris” in honour of the 1978 Booker Prize-winning Irish-British author Iris Murdoch.

Also read: Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka wins Booker Prize 2022

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