Treacle Walker by Alan Garner
Treacle Walker by Alan Garner Image Credit: supplied

Could it be the most memorable birthday of his life? The oldest author ever to be shortlisted, the octogenarian Alan Garner who celebrates his 88th birthday on the night of award may have a double reason to cheer. His book Treacle Walker, a spare and intense piece of work at just over 150 pages, is the front-runner for The Booker Prize 2022.

We have to just wait a few more days to see if this novelist, known for his retellings of traditional British folk and children’s tales will bag one of the literary world’s most prestigious awards.

While most of his books are classified as children’s literature, his latest work, Treacle Walker is different, although it does feature a child protagonist.

Plot: Joe, the main character, is on a quest to meet a cuckoo. His eyes seem to have an issue and he lives alone in an old house. One day he is befriended by the rag-and-bone man (a bone-picker, rag-gatherer). These totter are in existence in England since the Middle Ages.

In villages they lead a horse and wagon around calling out for rags and bones. Walker turns out to be Joe’s eccentric spiritual guide. Soon letters of an eye test spell out strange results and the story takes a different form from here.

Garner’s speciality is that most of his books are set in his native county of Cheshire, North West England.

His literary career began with the publication of his book The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960). The fantasy tale was followed by The Moon of Gomrath (1963), and a third book, Boneland (2012). In between, Garner came out with acclaimed works like Elidor (1965), The Owl Service (1967) and Red Shift (1973).

Booker hot favourite: The long and shortlists for The Booker Prize 2022 were selected from 169 novels published between Oct. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022. The Booker Prize is open to works by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK.

This year’s award shortlist has six authors in all. A diverse selection — from the civil war in Sri Lanka to politics in Zimbabwe and racism in the US are among the real-world events that feature in this year’s selection. The winner will receive £50,000 on October 17.

Here is the final shortlist:

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

The Trees by Percival Everett

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

Treacle Walker by Alan Garner

Ahmad Nazir is a UAE-based freelancer writer