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International Man Booker long list: who looks good

March 19, 2009 | 11:11 am


The International Man Booker Prize is basically a grand lifetime achievement award in fiction, given just once every two years. The relatively new award is open to living authors who write in English, or whose work is widely available in English. At a ceremony in New York on Wednesday, Jane Smiley, head of the three-judge panel, announced the long list for the 2009 prize.

The names on the list read like those rumored to be in the running for the Nobel. Actually, one writer on the list -- V.S. Naipaul -- already has a Nobel. The International Man Booker's winner gets £60,000, which is less than the Nobel award, and the prestige for the new prize hasn't yet been established. Amazon's Omnivoracious blog muses:

With only two awards so far (to Albania's Ismail Kadare and Nigeria's Chinua Achebe), and with so long between the prizes, it's hard to build up a critical mass for what the award represents. Would they give it to someone who's already won the Nobel, for instance, or does it function as a sort of gap-filler for writers who have been denied the big prize?

Maybe its direction can be intuited from the path the prize has taken so far. Although it is said that it is given for purely literary excellence, the two previous winners -- Kadare (2005) and Achebe (2007) -- both write literature that is politically engaged. Is this an award that emphasizes authors whose art works against political repression?  If so, what is Joyce Carol Oates doing on the 2009 long list?

The long-listed authors are:

Peter Carey
Evan S. Connell
Mahasweta Devi
E.L. Doctorow
James Kelman
Mario Vargas Llosa
Arnošt Lustig
Alice Munro
V.S. Naipaul
Joyce Carol Oates
Antonio Tabucchi
Ngugi Wa Thiong’O
Dubravka Ugresic
Ludmila Ulitskaya

The authors who seem to have International Man Booker momentum, if there is such a thing, are Peter Carey (Australia) and Alice Munro (Canada), who were on the long list both the last round and this one. Antonio Tabucchi (Italy) is making a comeback, returning to the long list this year after an initial 2005 appearance.

Parsing the International Man Booker long list (since its inception) after the jump.

The full list shows a kind of movement of literary fashions. Ian McEwan (England) and Margaret Atwood (Canada) made the long list in 2005 and 2007, but not this year. Two authors I've revered since college -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia) and Milan Kundera (the former Czechoslovakia) -- made the list in 2005 but have since dropped off. The controversy over Gunter Grass' (Germany) service during World War II hit in 2006, and his name hasn't been seen on the long list since 2005. And John Updike (U.S.), Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt), Saul Bellow (Canada), Muriel Spark (Scotland), Stanislaw Lem (Poland), all on the list in 2005, have no hope of returning -- after death, they're no longer eligible.

Margaret Atwood: 2005, 2007
John Banville: 2007
Saul Bellow: 2005
Peter Carey: 2007, 2009
Evan S. Connell: 2009   
Don DeLillo: 2007
Mahasweta Devi: 2009
E.L. Doctorow: 2009
Carlos Fuentes: 2007
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: 2005
Gunter Grass: 2005
James Kelman: 2009
Milan Kundera: 2005
Stanislaw Lem: 2005
Doris Lessing: 2005, 2007
Mario Vargas Llosa: 2009
Arnošt Lustig: 2009
Naguib Mahfouz: 2005
Tomas Eloy Martinez: 2005
Ian McEwan: 2005, 2007
Harry Mulisch: 2007
Alice Munro: 2007, 2009
V. S. Naipaul: 2009
Joyce Carol Oates: 2009
Kenzaburo Oe: 2005
Michael Ondaatje: 2007
Amos Oz: 2007
Cynthia Ozick: 2005
Philip Roth: 2005, 2007
Salman Rushdie: 2007
Muriel Spark: 2005
Antonio Tabucchi: 2005, 2009
Ngugi Wa Thiong’O: 2009
Michel Tournier: 2007
Dubravka Ugresic: 2009
Ludmila Ulitskaya: 2009
John Updike: 2005
A. B. Yehoshua: 2005

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Peter Carey. Credit: Ashley Gilberton. Alice Munro. Credit: Derek Shapton