Although the Sydney Writers' Festival is still a month and a half away we've already been teased by an appetiser- the arrival of the judges for the 2011 Man Booker International Prize and their announcement of the shortlist.
The award recognises a writer's body of work in fiction and is conferred every two years with a prize of £60,000. The judges elected Sydney to be host to the shortlist and winner announcements earlier in the year, prompting speculation of an Australian author being in the running.
Judges announced the shortlist for the biennial award at the University of Sydney on Wednesday. The thirteen strong list reads like a spotter's guide to important contemporary literary figures, from John le Carré to Amin Maalouf and Marilynne Robinson. Halfway through confirmation of an Australian connection was received, David Malouf's name is on the list. Easily my favourite Australian writer this little bookshop employee was very pleased to see such a talented countryman being nominated on this prestigious list.
But a shortlist announcement wouldn't be the same without a little controversy. John le Carré has asked for his name to be removed from the competition. Although flattered le Carré has apparently given instructions for his work not to be entered for literary prizes, unfortunately for him the International Man Booker isn't entered, it's nominated. The shortlist is chosen by the judges for the writer's body of work, so once you're in, you're in.
On e of the criteria for the award is that the work be written in or available in English so it's great to see a number of non-English speakers on the list. Some, such as China's Wang Anyi, have a limited number of works in English (just a novella and one novel in Anyi's case). But others, China's Su Tong and Italy's Dacia Maraini, have a number available.
Those of you who delight in children's books instead of all this grown up business will be happy to hear Philip Pullman is also on the list- despite his 'genre fiction' label. I'm very pleased about this, mostly because I love genre fiction, specifically fantasy and science fiction, and it's about time some of the exceptional work being done in these fields is acknowledged by international award groups.
Two of the three judges Carmen Callil and Justin Cartwright also participated in a masterclass at the University of Sydney for a lucky few. Both Carmen and Justin were excellent and friendly speakers, dispensing advice and encouragement. Justin told the audience that writing was the most important job in society because writers are the ones who define our society for us, who will clarify for history the way in which we live.
The chair of judges, Rick Gekoski, will be participating in the Sydney Writers' Festival as well. Doing a total of five events, including a discussion with the winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction Howard Jacobson about his work The Finkler Question and a panel discussing the alarming thought: is reading over-rated?
For more information on the Man Booker prize go here.
For more information on the Sydney Writers' Festival go here.
Written by Elissa