Booker Prize shortlist unveiled, Sri Lankan Tamil author makes the cut

'A Passage North' by Sri Lankan Tamil author Anuk Arudpragasam has made it into the 2021 Booker Prize shortlist. Image courtesy:

London: The 2021 Booker Prize shortlist, unveiled at a virtual event in London on Tuesday, includes six finalists for the prestigious award for works of fiction, with an equal male-female author split.

Indian-origin British novelist Sunjeev Sahota, who had made the longlist with his acclaimed immigrant tale 'China Room', missed out in the final running.

Sri Lankan Tamil author Anuk Arudpragasam made the cut with 'A Passage North'; South African author Damon Galgut for 'The Promise'; Americans Patricia Lockdwood for 'No One is Talking About this', Richard Powers for 'Bewilderment', and Maggie Shipstead for 'Great Circle'; and British-Somali author Nadifa Mohamed for 'The Fortune Men'.

With so many ambitious and intelligent books before us, the judges engaged in rich discussions not only about the qualities of any given title, but often about the purpose of fiction itself. We are pleased to present a shortlist that delivers as wide a range of original stories as it does voices and styles, said historian Maya Jasanoff, Chair of the 2021 Booker judges.

Perhaps appropriately for our times, these novels share an interest in how individuals are both animated and constrained by forces larger than themselves. Some are acutely introspective, taking us into the mind of a Tamil man tracing the scars of Sri Lanka's civil war, and an American woman unplugging from the internet to cope with a family crisis. Some enter communities in the throes of historical transformation: the Cardiff docklands in the early years of British decolonisation, and the veld around Pretoria in the last years of apartheid. And some have global sweep, following a mid-century aviator in her attempt to circumnavigate the planet, and a present-day astrobiologist raising a son haunted by climate change," she said.

"While each book is immersive in itself, together they are an expansive demonstration of what fiction is doing today, she added.

The shortlist was chosen from 158 novels published in the UK or Ireland between October 2020 and September 2021. This year's judges included writer and editor Horatia Harrod; actor Natascha McElhone; twice Booker-shortlisted novelist and professor Chigozie Obioma; and writer and former Archbishop Rowan Williams.

Gaby Wood, Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said: This year, over the course of nine largely solitary months, five strangers of disparate backgrounds showed each other what they saw in stories what dazzled them or challenged them, what touched them or left them unmoved. In the process they showed something of themselves, and came to trust each other as a result.

They also proved that the best literature is elastic: both because so many different things can be seen in it, and because as one of the judges said the best of fiction can make you feel as though your mind, or heart, are a little bit larger for having read it.

The Booker Prize for Fiction is open to works by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland. The shortlisted authors will each receive GBP 2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book.

The 2021 winner, to receive GBP 50,000, will be announced on November 3 in an award ceremony held in partnership with the BBC at Broadcasting House's Radio Theatre.

The 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction was won by Scottish-American Douglas Stuart for his debut novel Shuggie Bain'.

Sunjeev Sahota, whose grandparents emigrated from Punjab in the 1960s, has been previously shortlisted for the 2015 Booker Prize for The Year of the Runaways' and is a winner of the European Union Prize for Literature in 2017. The 40-year-old missed out on the 2021 shortlist along with previous winner British Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro for Klara and the Sun'.

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