Two-time winner JM Coetzee’s latest book is on list along with little-reviewed crime thriller by Graeme Macrae Burnet
A psychological crime thriller will compete with the latest novel from the Nobel prize winner JM Coetzee for this year’s Man Booker prize, the judges have revealed as they released details of the 2016 longlist.
In total, 13 novels make the list. Six are by women and seven by men, with five American writers, six British, one Canadian and one South African.
The list includes Coetzee, who is the first person to win the Man Booker twice, and well known writers such as Deborah Levy, AL Kennedy and Elizabeth Strout.
The chair of judges, Amanda Foreman, called it a very exciting year. ”The range of books is broad and the quality extremely high. Each novel provoked intense discussion and, at times, passionate debate, challenging our expectations of what a novel is and can be,” she said.
“From the historical to the contemporary, the satirical to the polemical, the novels in this list come from both established writers and new voices. The writing is uniformly fresh, energetic and important. It is a longlist to be relished.”
Perhaps the most surprising book on the list is Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, a crime thriller published last year by the tiny independent crime fiction imprint Contraband.
It was not widely reviewed although it was described enthusiastically by the critic Jake Kerridge as “a real box of tricks … a truly ingenious thriller as confusingly multilayered as an Escher staircase”.
In truth, the book is more than your average crime thriller. Foreman said: “We very strongly believe in books which transcend their genres and His Bloody Project really does that and that’s what makes and refreshes literature, so we were very excited to have that on the list.”
Glasgow-based Burnet said he would call it a novel about a crime rather than a crime novel, although he had no problem about the label.
“I’m totally thrilled and totally thrilled for the publishers,” said Burnet who named Georges Simenon as his literary hero. “You look at the other names on the list and you think ‘wow’.”
Could a crime thriller win the Man Booker prize? It was given odds of 6/1 by William Hill which made Kennedy and Coetzee joint 3/1 favourites.
The 76-year-old Coetzee, who won the prize with Life & Times of Michael K in 1983 and Disgrace in 1999, is listed for The Schooldays of Jesus, a book not due out until September, meaning very few people beyond Man Booker judges have read it.
What is known is that it is manifestly a follow-up to his 2013 novel, The Childhood of Jesus, which baffled – and delighted – many readers and was described by the Guardian as involving a Kafkaesque retelling of the Nativity story.
Foreman feels people may be equally baffled by the new novel. “This is the book which will have many, many, many people debating and arguing about what it means and that is one of the most marvellous things that a book can do – provoke intense discussion and debate,” she said.
After Coetzee, the only previously Booker-listed author is Levy, for Hot Milk.
Levy was shortlisted in 2012 for Swimming Home, which had initially failed to find a publisher for being “too literary” for the marketplace.
There was no trouble this time, with Hot Milk published by the Penguin Random House imprint Hamish Hamilton and well received by critics. Erica Wagner, in the Observer, called it “a powerful novel of the interior life” with “a transfixing gaze and a terrible sting that burns long after the final page is turned”.
Remarkably, the Scottish writer Kennedy has never made it on to a Booker longlist, but has this year been chosen for her eighth novel Serious Sweet, a London love story told over the course of 24 hours.
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SOURCE: The Guardian