The 9th September 2014 saw the Man Booker Prize release its 2014 shortlist, but with such a contentious longlist already in the bag, did the latest from the year’s judging panel do anything to turn its detractors back in its favour? With questions about its multicultural inclusivity, gender split and the presence of books in the longlist before they’ve even been released to the public, the all-white judging panel have come under fire for their decisions to-date and considering the fact that the shortlist is a derivative if their previous judging responsibilities, it’s doubtful that they’ll be getting off unscathed the second time around either.
The criticism is perhaps all the more damning as the 2014 Booker Prize competition is the first in its history to include any author from around the world writing original works of fiction in English and published in the UK. With its new, all inclusive remit, it’s easy to see why the literature press had found it so baffling to include just one entrant to the longlist that isn’t Caucasian and only three females out of a possible thirteen longlist places. Read our full coverage of the Booker Prize 2014 longlist to find out more.
The shortlist, however, may not give the judging panel, or the organisers, a clean slate as such, but it does allow them to review the balance a little, while ensuring that they don’t redress too much to overcompensate for the criticism they’ve received. Including three authors from Britain, one from Australia and two from the US, it’s far from the rich diversity that you may have been hoping for, but Booker Prize organisers have been quick to defend their selections citing that the books in the shortlist feature stories set around the world, including the UK, America, Thailand, Italy and India.
For followers of The Booker Prize, the 2014 shortlist included a couple of names you might recognise from previous years, as two authors have been included in the shortlist in the past. Howard Jacobson won the prize outright in 2010 with The Finkler Question, and Ali Smith has been shortlisted twice before with Hotel World in 2001 and The Accidental in 2005.
The shortlist was completed by Joshua Ferris, Richard Flanagan, Karen Joy Fowler, and Neel Mukherjee, but you can find out more about each of the finalists’ shortlisted work below. The six authors were announced by the chair of the judging panel, writer and philosopher, AC Grayling, at the official press conference at the headquarters of the Man Group, the prize’s sponsor since 2002.
Grayling, along with the rest of the judges – Jonathan Bate, Sarah Churchwell, Daniel Glaser, Alastair Niven and Erica Wagner – re-read the shorlisted books before going on to select the overall Booker Prize winner for 2014, which was announced as Richard Fanagan’s The Narrow Road To The Deep North on Tuesday 14 October 2014 during the official ceremony that aired live on BBC.
Booker Prize 2014 shortlist:
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (Viking)
An affluent, but ultimately unfulfilled, middle aged dentist from New York discovers fake Twitter and Facebook accounts in his name as he’s trying to find meaning in his own life. The fact that the other him seems to be living a better life pushes him to the edges of his own reason, giving the book similarities Richard Ayoade’s The Double.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent’s Tail)
Rosemary holds her family secrets close to her chest as she struggles with coming of age in college. With her brother and unique sister gone from her life she finds it time to tell her story in all it’s randomness.
J by Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape)
A love story set in a future in which the past is a dangerous taboo, not to be talked about, despite the bizarre hints at what occurred, if in fact it did occur. With a big event referred to as What Happened and the ever present telltale signs of brutality, it’s a dystopian story of controlling powers.
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee (Chatto & Windus)
Political extremism and family life combine in this story of Calcutta in 1967. The tide of change is all around the Goshes family and rivalries, secrets, financial breakdown and a fractured society swirl up the silt of worry.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus) – Winner
A love story between a doctor and his uncle’s wife set against the backdrop of the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War II. As a surgeon in one of Japan’s prisoner of war camps responsible for the construction of the railway, the horrors of the situation are his usual daily toil, but when a letter arrives his life gets spun in a new direction.
How to be Both by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
A story of the versatility of art that ranges from the 1960s to renaissance art in 1460. Two stories of love, art and injustice interweave into one truth that seems to imply that people never change.