With the announcement of the winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize due to be made at Guildhall, London tomorrow, we analyse all the six shortlisted books and their odds to win the coveted prize.
What makes a book, or as it goes, an author win the Man Booker? Is it writing which lives upto every parameter of greatness and only further enhances it, or is it a work of unconvention, taking by storm the entire idea of a great read? Or is it way beyond the two, and hence beyond any attempt of confinement to a definition? To these questions almost every literary analyst will have no singular answer. The Booker, right since its inception, has been notoriously unpredictable with its awardees, and not every winner has gone down well in literati circles globally. However, what remains unchallenged is the fame of the prize as one of the greatest prizes a writer can possibly get.
Six books this year contest for the Man Booker Prize and the 50,000 GBP that come with it. Almost every book is a groundbreaking text in literature, redefining in its own way the overall understanding of fiction.
4321 by Paul Auster is the story of Archie Ferguson. The four incarnations of his life have been splintered into four versions. A bildungsroman, the narrative takes the reader to four intriguing episodes of the protagonist’s business endeavours. The creme de la creme of this Paul Auster flagship is that the ambitious storyline does not add to the bulk but rather stand out separately, making it an engrossing read altogether.
Elmet is narrated from the perspective of Daniel, a 14-year-old boy. The struggle of his family to secure an existence in an elemental, this contemporary rural noir is steeped in the literature and legend of the Yorkshire landscape and its medieval history. What makes this novel by Fiona Mozley special is its graphical description and lyricism. The narrative is soft and deliberate, and the characters are implicitly complex yet relatable. On the whole, in spite of being mooted as a wild card entry in the list, the novel is one of the best reads among the fellow nominees.
Ali Smith’s Autumn is a masterpiece. As the name suggests, it is the first installment of a series of four, as Smith explores “What time is, how we experience it”. A relatively shorter text, the novel is beautiful cover to cover. The story is of a young girl, Elisabeth, and her relation with Daniel, an old man in his 90s, as Daniel introduces her to the world of art amidst the crisis of Brexit and her personal dilemmas. The depiction of emotions and longing of the characters are almost lifelike. The fear of death, agony, personal crisis, and alternate cycles of hope and despair entangle the reader with the characters and make them believe in the perpetuity of emotions on the face of fleeting time of our lives.
Exit West is a story of Saeed and Nadia, as they try and seek romance and existence in their war-torn city. They travel across places through this metaphysical door which connects cities. The personal crisis in the times of social dilemmas, and the inherent intricacies linked to immigration forms the narrative of this novel by Mohsin Hamid. An elegant, simple read, this has been one of the most popular reads this year.
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund is the story of Linda, and her coming-of-age narrative centred around her school, neighbourhood, and the people around her. This novel is powerfully written, as the melancholy and sombre existence of characters reeks out of the pages, and the gloom transfers onto the reader. It would be safe to say that Emily Fridlund’s first novel could not have come better than this.
George Saunders’ genius, original, unnerving, and first full-length work, Lincoln in the Bardo, is everyone’s guess for this year’s winner. This is one strange story that the author had been nurturing for twenty years, researching and redrafting. As he tells in an interview, “I could feel that there was a beautiful book there but began to fear that it would have to be written by somebody else. The problem: I was not confident of my ability to express sincere human emotion straightforwardly, while maintaining the required (by me) stylistic verve. That is: I felt myself rickety around the expression of positive emotion.”
Based around the anecdote that Abraham Lincoln used to pay visit to this ghost-ridden cemetery where his son lay, the superlative treatment in this avant garde piece renders nothing less than an absolute masterpiece. Imaginative, unusual, and staggeringly well-researched, this novel is a journey to embark upon, and by far the best read of this year.
So yes, for the announcement that comes tomorrow, you can safely put your money on Lincoln in the Bardo, a novel class apart by one of the best authors of our times.
Feature Image Credits: Waterstones