British author Hilary Mantel, who won the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall, her bestselling historical novel about Tudor England, is poised to make history after its sequel, Bring up the Bodies, was nominated to the short list of finalists for the 2012 Booker. Although no sequel has ever won Britain’s most prestigious literary prize, Bring Up the Bodies quickly emerged as the favourite among London bookmakers to prevail over five other finalists on the just-announced short list.
Following Mantel on the odds board is fellow Briton Will Self, nominated for Umbrella, a challenging stream-of-consciousness novel about a victim of sleeping sickness. Two debut novels also made the list: Narcopolis by Indian poet Jeet Thayil, a story set in the opium dens of 1970s Mumbai; and Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse, published by a small independent press and virtually ignored until now.
Rounding out the six-book list are Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home and Malaysian writer Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists. Like Moore’s novel, both were published by small presses not affiliated with any of the “Big Six” companies that dominate international publishing.
Pundits immediately hailed the Booker jury’s selection as an antidote to last year’s list, chosen on the basis of “readability” and widely criticized as too commercial. It was “the pure power of prose that settled most debates” among the 2012 jurors, according to jury chair Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement. “We loved the shock of language shown in so many different ways and were exhilarated by the vigour and vividly defined values in the six books that we chose – and in the visible confidence of the novel’s place in forming our words and ideas.”
Prominent prose stylists who failed to make either long or short lists this year included Martin Amis and Zadie Smith, both of whom published new novels this year. The $78,000 prize will be awarded to the winner Oct. 16 in London
- Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists
- Deborah Levy, Swimming Home
- Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies
- Alison Moore, The Lighthouse
- Will Self, Umbrella
- Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis