Tag Archives: literature

Man Booker International 2016 Longlist

DEBORAH JONES
March, 2016

Household, pseudonymous and new names are included on the longlist of 13 books in line for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize, released March 10.

Contenders include Turkey’s household name Orhan Pamuk; the ever-mysterious Italian, Elena Ferrante — who writes under a pseudonym; South Korea’s Han Kang; Indonesia’s Eka Kurniawan; and Finland’s Aki Ollikainen. The 13 were winnowed from an initial stack of 155.

“Our selection highlights the sheer diversity of great fiction today,” said judging panel chair Boyd Tonkin, of the Independent newspaper, in a press release.

“From intense episodes of passion to miniature historical epics; from eerie fables of family strife to character-driven chronicles of urban life, this list showcases fiction that crosses every border. It also pays tribute to the skill and dedication of the first-rate translators who convey it to English-language readers,” said Tonkin’s statement.

The other judges on the panel are novelist Tahmima Anam; Princeton University academic David Bellos; editor and academic Daniel Medin; and British poet and author Ruth Padel.

The international Man Booker, sponsored by the British investment house Man Group, joined this year with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

The short list of six will be released April 14, with each author and translator receiving UK £1,000. The final winner will be announced on May 16. The grand prize of UK £50,000 will be split equally between each book’s author and translater.

The real prize, however, is the priceless name recognition from having won a Man Booker.

Here is the longlist of books in contention, with the author and nationality first, followed by the translator, title, and imprint:

José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola) Daniel Hahn, A General Theory of Oblivion (Harvill Secker)

Elena Ferrante (Italy) Ann Goldstein, The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions)

Han Kang (South Korea) Deborah Smith, The Vegetarian (Portobello Books)

Maylis de Kerangal (France) Jessica Moore, Mend the Living (Maclehose Press)

Eka Kurniawan (Indonesia) Labodalih Sembiring, Man Tiger (Verso Books)

Yan Lianke (China) Carlos Rojas, The Four Books (Chatto & Windus)

Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Democratic Republic of Congo/Austria) Roland Glasser, Tram 83 (Jacaranda)

Raduan Nassar (Brazil) Stefan Tobler, A Cup of Rage (Penguin Modern Classics)

Marie NDiaye (France) Jordan Stump, Ladivine (Maclehose Press)

Kenzaburō Ōe (Japan) Deborah Boliner Boem, Death by Water (Atlantic Books)

Aki Ollikainen (Finland) Emily Jeremiah & Fleur Jeremiah, White Hunger (Peirene Press)

Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) Ekin Oklap, A Strangeness in My Mind (Faber & Faber)

Robert Seethaler (Austria) Charlotte Collins, A Whole Life (Picador)

— Deborah Jones

Further reading from F&O’s archives:

The Man Booker is stacked in favour of big publishers, By Stevie Marsden, July, 2015

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction has announced its longlist for the 2015 award. Now in its 46th year, the award is among the most prestigious in the literary world. It is also incredibly generous to the big publishing houses. Five of the six books shortlisted last year came from Penguin Random House, following a longlist where nine out of the 13 books came from the big publishers. This year it is eight out of 13. But whether or not you think this sounds too much, the real problem lies in submission rules that risk locking in this dominance and making it progressively worse in years to come.

Man Booker Prize: Colonization’s Long Shadow , By Preti TanejaOctober, 2014

Richard Flanagan is the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize with his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Giving his acceptance speech he said, “In Australia the Man Booker is seen as something of a chicken raffle. I just did not expect to end up the chicken.”

Judging the Man Booker Prize, By Dinah Birch, July, 2014

This year’s run-up to the naming of the Man Booker Prize winner has just begun, with the announcement of the 13 novels that make up the longlist. They will soon be dissected and analysed by readers and critics all over the world. For the first time, the prize has been open to writers of any nationality, as long as their work was originally in English and was published in the United Kingdom.

Elsewhere on the web:

Successfully absent: Elena Ferrante’s Italian books, by Giorgia Alu, The Conversation

Italian novelist Elena Ferrante is a cult author. She is defined as “one of the great novelists of our time” in The New York Times Book Review, “the best contemporary novelist you have never heard of” in The Economist, and “one of Italy’s finest novelists” in the Times Literary Supplement, and so on and so forth. She is also known for fiercely protecting her true identity.

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Are children’s books “literature?”

By Kiera Vaclavik, Queen Mary University of London 
December, 2014

Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, was an ardent defender of children’s literature, believing the works of Beatrix Potter to be equal to “the greatest English prose writers that have lived”.

Book cover Photo by Jill Brown via Flickr, Creative Commons

Book cover Photo by Jill Brown via Flickr, Creative Commons

One wonders therefore what he would have made of the rather unedifying row between the executors of his estate and the Rosenbach Museum and Library, to which he bequeathed his collection of rare books, including several volumes by Potter, on his death in 2012. His executors are refusing to hand them over, arguing that they are “merely” children’s books.

Thus the death of one of the great children’s writers of our generation has forced a court to seek a legal answer to a literary question, about which Sendak was surely never in doubt.

My own research on Lewis Carroll’s protean and enduringly youthful heroine, Alice, has brought me into close contact with Carroll collectors whose houses are often filled from floor to ceiling with Alice editions and all manner of more or less related articles. While some have already made decisions about where to house their collections after their deaths, others are mulling over the possibilities.

In the light of the Sendak case, they would be well advised to pay close attention to the fine print and terminology of their bequests (not to mention the character of their executors). Are they leaving collections of children’s literature? Or simply of literature?

The literary merit of children’s books is regularly cast into doubt. What’s interesting and ironic about the wrangle over Sendak’s Potter books is that it brings into the frame both their cultural and their monetary value. It’s in the interests of the estate to hang on to them.

Books for small people are indeed a very big business, one of the only parts of the global publishing industry to remain in relatively fine fettle, to not only survive but to flourish in recent years.

New works are being produced at a staggering rate and often to exceptionally high standards. At the same time, older works of a fairly substantial list of Victorian and Edwardian writers and illustrators, and all their associated items, are highly prized and sought after: just this week a Pooh drawing sold for a six-figure sum.

Classic children’s literature, such as Pooh and Potter, abounds on publishers’ lists and indeed often effectively finances new works. Interestingly, “classic” children’s literature tends to be the children’s books that adults often like, buy, and collect.

If the “literature” part of “children’s literature” is often called into question, the “children’s” part is no less problematic. Definitions of children’s literature inevitably crumble, made complicated by “crossover” books for adults and children – and by books which were for adults but flip into the children’s category (such as Gulliver’s Travels) and vice versa (arguably any of the children’s classics mentioned here).

Beatrix Potter's beloved characters. Image via Project Gutenberg

Are Beatrix Potter’s beloved books “literature?” Image via Project Gutenberg, Public domain

This body of works, however designated, can of course become fossilised, reactionary and dripping with twee Olde Worlde nostalgia. It’s often the stuff of endless, unimaginative re-editions. But it can also be cutting-edge and revolutionary – it can and does inspire new generations in new ways.

The ever increasing avalanche of events and products scheduled for the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 2015 makes this abundantly clear. Yes, there will be lots of (not always particularly innovative) new editions, but there will be others designed by Dame Vivienne Westwood, not to mention concerts and tattoo chains and exhibitions galore.

Classic children’s literature is, then, a particularly popular form of literature. For some, those two things still make uncomfortable bedfellows. Mass appeal is compounded by utilitarianism which, in the realm of creativity, has been regarded with withering disdain at best for the last century and a half. Asking whether children’s classics are on a par with literary classics, or a distinct subspecies, whether they are really literature, is akin to the question: “is it really art?” And it plays on many of the same prejudices and sensitivities.

In the literary firmament, children’s literature – classic or otherwise – still tends to be seen as a minor constellation at best. But as with contemporary art, it will always depend on who is asking, when, and why.

Creative Commons

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Kiera Vaclavik is a Senior Lecturer in French and Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London. She receives funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

 

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Man Booker Prize: Colonization’s Long Shadow

Photo by Mosman Library via Flickr, Creative Commons

If the Man Booker Prize has a theme, it may be the complicated relationships between cultures and countries that are linked by a power dynamic located in the violence of colonization, says Peter Carey — revealing the long shadow of cultural imperialism. Photo of Richard Flanagan at a book reading, in New South Wales, by the Mosman Library via Flickr. Creative Commons

By Preti Taneja, University of Cambridge
October 17, 2014 

Richard Flanagan is the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize with his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Giving his acceptance speech he said, “In Australia the Man Booker is seen as something of a chicken raffle. I just did not expect to end up the chicken.”

It’s a win that will probably find favour with Peter Carey, another Australian, and one of just three writers in the history of the Booker Prize to win it twice. The criteria for entering used to be books by “a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland”; this year it was opened to all English language writers (including, of course, Americans) for the first time. Carey said recently that in changing the rules, a “particular cultural flavour” represented by Commonwealth literature was at risk of being lost.

Looked at another way, Carey’s statement suggests a certain kind of book usually wins, one that deals with the patchwork fabric of the Commonwealth; the complicated relationships between cultures and countries that are linked by a power dynamic located in the violence of colonisation.

That a UK-based prize – and one so powerful in the world’s literary marketplace – might be pulled by this undertow only reinforces the long shadow of cultural imperialism.

Flanagan’s novel, written with a devastating lyricism, lives up to this “type” entirely: it is the only shortlisted book by a Commonwealth writer, and tells the story of surgeon Dorrigo Evans, held in a Japanese POW camp while working on the construction of the Thailand-Burma “death” railway.

The vestiges of empire are everywhere: on the tortured bodies of the characters, in their voices, their memories, brought to life in the burning landscapes they move through.

In a piece for the Guardian on the morning before the announcement, Carey admitted that Flanagan’s novel was the only shortlisted book he had read: “Richard Flanagan clearly has to win. He’s our man. He’s a serious guy who can really, really write.”

No comment on whether his being “our man” is because he’s Commonwealth, or Australian.

So what of American writers, who, some say, are less concerned with the “others” beyond their own borders? Do they deal more in the strange minutiae of American life, are they more interested in examining the dystopia of the American dream than the world outside?

Though Karen Joy Fowler’s Booker-nominated We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves seems to fit the American bill, it actually adheres to the “flavour” of Commonwealth literary culture.

Yes, her novel goes down the rabbit-hole of American family life, via some familiar tropes of American campus novels and independent cinema’s loose groups of friends. But it does so to explore themes of world importance.

The novel is unafraid to investigate who the real “others” to humanity are; how they are treated; whether they can or should remain enslaved. It is a book of siblings and scientific ethics, of gender and patriarchy; it is absolutely haunting and amazingly fresh.

Long after its covers are closed, it demands that we think about who we are, and what role in the world we want to play.

Writers don’t have to tackle such themes explicitly to win the prize. Hilary Mantel, another two-time winner with the novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, does not offer her readers contemporary history or scientific experiment. She achieves that “Commonwealth” sense of investigating identity through her precise choice of tense and perspective.

Her writing offers readers the chance to live in an eternally present moment from a history that formed our world. In making this choice she allows us to explore something about our own cultural DNA, to experience a time when the idea of dominance over the other, particularly a sense of British superiority over parts of the world, was being formed and consolidated.

The Booker committee emphasises that its criteria is wide, that it seeks to recognise “the best in English language fiction”. This year’s shortlisted books J by Howard Jacobson and How to be Both by Ali Smith are also on the list for the Goldsmith’s prize, given to “fiction that breaks the mould”.

The mould might be stylistic or thematic, or it might simply be the feeling that every reader gets of having read something similar before.

So what flavours should a prize-winning book contain? Flanagan’s novel answers this question through its steady depictions of violence, its careful attention to the idea that all sides are victims in terrible acts of war.

“How to be both” is absolutely the underlying theme here – and I’m with Ali Smith when she says: “Work that engages you sensorily, intellectually, to the heart. That will do it for me.”

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Preti, the AHRC/ BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker 2014 at University of Cambridge, is the editor of Visual Verse, an online anthology of art and words, whose patrons include Bernadine Evaristo, Andrew Motion and Ali Smith. www.visualverse.org

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Further reading:

Man Booker Prize: Richard Flanagan wins for wartime love story: The BBC

AC Grayling, chair of the judges, said it was a “remarkable love story as well as a story about human suffering and comradeship”. Flanagan’s novel is set during the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War Two.

Column: Judging the Man Booker Prize. By Dinah Birch, The Conversation

This year’s run-up to the naming of the Man Booker Prize winner has just begun, with the announcement of the 13 novels that make up the longlist. They will soon be dissected and analysed by readers and critics all over the world. For the first time, the prize has been open to writers of any nationality, as long as their work was originally in English and was published in the United Kingdom.

 

Facts and Opinions is a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  We appreciate your interest and support by purchasing a day pass for $1; subscriptions start at $2.95 per month A subscription is required for most of our original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in the form on the right (we won’t share your address). Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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Nobel winner Patrick Modiano: Memory, identity and time

Patrick Modiano. (Facebook profile photo)

Patrick Modiano. (Facebook profile photo)

French author Patrick Modiano won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature, the Nobel organization announced Thursday, “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.” 

Modiano is a widely-published novelist, author of children’s books, and writer of film scripts. Modiano’s books tend to be short, Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, told journalist Sven Hugo Persson, “but at the same time, the composition of the novels are quite refined. They’re very elegant books.” 

Englund cited Missing Persons as a typical example of Modiano’s work: a “fun book,” he said, in which a detective who has lost his memory goes on a quest to discover his identity.

The Swedish Academy announcement, of its 111th Nobel literature prize, noted:

 Modiano’s works centre on topics such as memory, oblivion, identity and guilt. The city of Paris is often present in the text and can almost be considered a creative participant in the works. Rather often his tales are built on an autobiographical foundation, or on events that took place during the German occupation. He sometimes draws material for his works from interviews, newspaper articles or own notes which he has accumulated over the years. His novels show an affinity with one another, and it happens that earlier episodes are extended or that persons recur in different tales. The author’s home town and its history often serve to link the tales together. A work of documentary character, with World War II as background, is Dora Bruder (1997; Dora Bruder, 1999) which builds on the true tale of a fifteen-year old girl in Paris who becomes one of the victims of the Holocaust. Among the works which most clearly reveal an autobiographical character one notes Un pedigree from 2005.

Modiano was born in Paris in 1945, and published his first book in 1968. He is much-celebrated in Europe: he won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2012; the 2010 Prix mondial Cino Del Duca from the Institut de France for lifetime achievement; the Prix Goncourt in 1978 for his Rue des boutiques obscures, and the 1972 Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française for Les Boulevards de centre, according to Wikipedia.

Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Haruki Murakami of Japan had been touted as this year’s potential winners. Recent scathing comments about the value of creative writing institutions by Englund — “the lines between literature, and “literature which has arisen as a commodity”, have been erased” while America’s lack of widely-read works from elsewhere creates “a hall of mirrors which reflects a perpetual, infinite image of America” — strongly suggested British and American authors were unlikely contenders. 

— Deborah Jones

Further reading:

The announcement by the Swedish Academy
Creative writing courses are killing western literature
, claims Nobel judge: The Guardian
A video interview, from the Nobel web site on YouTube, with Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy:

 

 

Facts and Opinions is a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  We appreciate your interest and support by purchasing a day pass for $1; subscriptions start at $2.95 per month A subscription is required for most of our original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in the form on the right (we won’t share your address). Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Man Booker Longlist goes Global

1200px-British_Museum_Reading_Room_Panorama_Feb_2006

The reading room of the British Museum in London. Photo by David Iliff, Creative Commons via Wikipedia

Organizers of  the Man Booker Prize released their first long list in a competition open to the wide world — or at least to titles written originally in English, and published in the United Kingdom.

Read the column Judging the Man Booker Prize by literature professor and 2012 judge Dinah Birch, in F&O’s Ex Libris section.

The list includes four independent publishers and one publisher, Unbound, that is crowd-funded. Four Americans made the list for a prize previously restricted to the United Kingdom, Commonwealth countries, the Republic of Ireland, and Zimbabwe. The titles were winn owed to 13 from 154 original entries. They are:

  • Joshua Ferris (American) — To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking)
  • Richard Flanagan (Australian) — The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus)
  • Karen Joy Fowler (American) — We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent’s Tail)
  • Siri Hustvedt (American) — The Blazing World (Sceptre)
  • Howard Jacobson (British) — J (Jonathan Cape)
  • Paul Kingsnorth (British) — The Wake (Unbound)
  • David Mitchell (British) — The Bone Clocks (Sceptre)
  • Neel Mukherjee (British) — The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus)
  • David Nicholls (British) — Us (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Joseph O’Neill (Irish/American) — The Dog (Fourth Estate)
  • Richard Powers (American) — Orfeo  (Atlantic Books)
  • Ali Smith (British) — How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Niall Williams (Irish) — History of the Rain (Bloomsbury)

Organizers said the shortlist will released September 9 at Man Group, the British investment firm that sponsors the prize, with the winner announced at a black tie event on October 14. For those who find value in competitions that judge literature  — I am dubious, though I see the need to spotlight books deemed worthy in the annual flood of words —  The Man Booker is, arguably, the world’s most prestigious literary prize after the Nobel.

Shortlisted authors receive £2,500 and a specially-bound edition of their book, said the organization in a press release. The winner receives £50,000 “and can expect overnight fame and international recognition, not to mention a significant increase in book sales.”

The Man Booker press release quoted 2013 winner Eleanor Catton on the benefits: “I’ve been given opportunities to travel and to see my book read by such an astonishingly wide readership all over the world.”
— Deborah Jones
 
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Judging the Man Booker Prize

1200px-British_Museum_Reading_Room_Panorama_Feb_2006

The reading room of the British Museum in London. Photo by David Iliff, Creative Commons via Wikipedia

By Dinah Birch, University of Liverpool, The Conversation
July, 2014

This year’s run-up to the naming of the Man Booker Prize winner has just begun, with the announcement of the 13 novels that make up the longlist. They will soon be dissected and analysed by readers and critics all over the world. For the first time, the prize has been open to writers of any nationality, as long as their work was originally in English and was published in the United Kingdom.

Four Americans feature in the list: Joshua Ferris, Siri Hustvedt, Karen Joy Fowler and Richard Powers. There’s an Australian (Richard Flanagan), an American/Irish writer (Joseph O’Neill), an Irish contender (Niall Williams), and six British authors (including Howard Jacobson, David Mitchell and Ali Smith). Three women appear on the list and ten men.

Judging any literary prize is tough, but the size of the task confronting the panel of the Man Booker Prize is enough to make anyone shiver. I was among the five judges in 2012, and the experience turned out to be one of the most demanding and exhilarating of my life. We read a total of 145 books – in about half a year. Most of them were put forward by their publishers, but a few were those we called in ourselves. It’s hard to believe, looking back, that we voluntarily added to our burdens, but we were crazily eager to include every serious contender. So, how was it done? Many people, understandably, assume that we just read part of the submissions, or divided the books between us.

In fact, there was no division, and no dodging. Each of the judges read the entire list and we all worked through them in the same order. Proof copies started to come in well before Christmas and the longlist was announced in late July, so we had seven months to complete the reading. Some short works could be dispatched quickly, which was just as well, but others refused to be rushed.

We had monthly meetings to share our verdicts, discussing each novel in turn. The panel had plenty of professional experience in reading quickly and carefully – and that made a difference. But mostly the work was done by abandoning much that we take for granted in day-to-day life – including, as I recall, any kind of social life or domestic responsibility (we were all blessed with patient and tolerant partners). Every spare moment, and some moments that were not really spare, was spent with heads buried in a book. We became obsessed, immersed in a world of fiction.

Our brief was simple. We were looking for the “best, eligible full-length novel in the opinion of the judges”, as the terms of entry stipulate. The prize is not given to an author on the basis of reputation or life-time achievement, but to the novel that in our collective judgement was the “best” to be published that year. We hung on to that fundamental point. It helped us to be clear about our priorities, and stiffened our resolve to set aside the work of distinguished writers, if we felt that novels by less familiar names had stronger claims. We were equally determined not to allow “opinion” to degenerate into whim, or personal predilection.

Our meetings were hugely enjoyable, but they were also intellectually rigorous. Our chair, Sir Peter Stothard, insisted that our choices must be backed by evidence and argument, founded on the reasoned analysis of the conceptual and stylistic strengths of the novels we were scrutinising. Perhaps our instincts as a panel were unusually academic, but the meetings often felt like the most testing kind of seminar, where no-one was allowed to get away with sloppy thinking. This was a powerful inducement to keep up the work rate. It would have been impossible to argue for or against any particular book if you hadn’t read it, didn’t have notes, hadn’t thought through your response.

The process of judgement was disciplined and methodical, but what lingers in my memory is the dizzying excitement of the reading. Encountering so much fiction in such a short space of time, most of it of high quality (there were few duds), was a strange and intoxicating experience. Even now, two years after my time as a judge, I can recall in precise detail passages and scenes from dozens of novels that didn’t make it onto the longlist, but had nevertheless exercised an iron grip on my imagination. It has become a cliché to note that fiction constantly defies prophecies of its imminent demise in a digital world, but reading those novels (some in hard copy, some on mobile devices) was a heady confirmation of the exuberance of the form.

Extending the scope of the prize to include writers of any national background means that American writers are now eligible, though publishers will not be entitled to submit more books under the new rules, so the number of novels on the judges’ list will not grow. Fiction is increasingly global in its origins and reach, and I welcome the change.

I doubt whether it will affect the essentials of the process – reaching the end of a chapter and noticing with dismay that it’s three in the morning; the lip-gnawing frustration of failing to persuade your fellow judges to admire a book that left you awestruck; the swell of satisfaction when a consensus is finally reached, and a winner emerges. For us, it was Hilary Mantel’s brilliant Bring up the Bodies. I’m looking forward to discovering what it will be in 2014.

Creative Commons

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Dinah Birch

Dinah Birch

Dinah Birch does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Dinah Birch is an academic and literary critic. She is Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool, and currently serves as the university’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange; she previously taught English at Trinity College, Oxford. She specialises in Victorian literature, and has published extensively on writers including Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Alfred Tennyson.

She was a member of the jury for the 2012 Man Booker Prize.

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