Britain’s Booker Prize for fiction unveiled its final contenders for this year’s award on Tuesday, featuring the oldest author and the shortest book ever to make the prestigious six-strong literary shortlist.
Octogenarian Englishman Alan Garner, who will turn 88 when the winner is announced on October 17, was shortlisted for “Treacle Walker”, which is the shortest finalist novel by word count.
Speaking about the overall shortlist, Neil MacGregor, chair of the 2022 judges, said: “They’re not easy books, even though they may be short. But like many great pleasures, some require hard work and we found them well worth the effort.”
Garner, who made his name with children’s fantasy titles and folk retellings, earned the nomination after six decades in print.
The shortlist, whittled down from a longlist of 13 announced in July, saw an equal split of men and women battling for the prize which can provide a career-changing boost in sales and public profile.
Zimbabwean novelist NoViolet Bulawayo made it for the second time, for “Glory”, while Sri Lanka’s Shehan Karunatilaka was the only other writer not from the British Isles or United States, for “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida”.
American Percival Everett was included for “Trees”, earning independent publisher Influx Press its first Booker shortlist place.
Fellow US writer Elizabeth Strout featured for “Oh William!” while Irish author Claire Keegan’s “Small Things Like These” completed the shortlist.
At 116 pages, Keegan’s is the shortest finalist by the number of pages in the Booker prize’s 53-year history.
“These are, above all, books that we have enjoyed,” MacGregor said as he unveiled the shortlist at an event in central London.
“They’re books that we want to recommend to others. They’re not too long and that’s maybe evidence that we’re looking at not just great writing, but also some great editing,” he added.
MacGregor noted most of the novels tackled “serious, sometimes tragic subjects” but all of them also featured “moments of high humour”.
The Booker is Britain’s foremost literary award for novels written in English. Its previous recipients include Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel.