27 July, 2017

2017-18 Literary Awards


The 2017-18 literary award season finally started with Booker prize announcing its longlist on 26 July. For a simplistic predictive model of the prize winners, click here.

Updated 13 Sep: The 2017 Booker prize shortlist is now out. Arundhati's exclusion is not a surprise as "Ministry" is really not on par with her first and Booker prize winner. Zadie Smith's exclusion is a regret but not a surprise, the former for her prodigious talent in capturing contemporary themes in literary writing, and the latter for the fact that "Swing Time" is perhaps a weaker work compared to "On Beauty" or "White Teeth". Kamila Shamsie's exclusion is a surprise considering the rave reviews "Home Fire" received. I'm not familiar with the works of Sebastian Barry, Mike McCormack and Jon McGregor, but Colson Whitehead's exclusion is a definite surprise considering the success "Underground" enjoyed in the US last year. The shortlist of three other American writers - Paul Auster, and Emily Fridlund and George Saunders - is also surprises for different reasons. Paul Auster's work is magisterial, but that's about it; Emily Fridlund and George Saunders are both talented writers who now enjoy the acclaim of having their first novels shortlisted, and their books are good, but not great, or not as good as, in my opinion, Shamsie's "Home Fire".  I love the fact that Fiona Mozley's book was shortlisted: this dark horse will now be the motivation for many aspiring and talented writers who are holding jobs in bookstores, restaurants, and who cares where. My sense is this year's prize will likely be a fight between Mohsin Hamid's "Exit West" and Ali Smith's "Autumn". Both were previous shortlist candidates, Hamid once and Smith thrice, who produced the strongest work this year that deal deftly with topical events. My bet is a Hamid victory for how he leverages the refugee dilemma into a universal yet visceral story.

Updated 15 Sep: The NBA longlist is refreshingly populated with writers who are not the obvious choices. Apart from Egan and Ward, who are, respectively, winners of Pulitzer and NBA, the other names are not familiar to me. Of the ten longlist candidates, 8 are female of which 4, Ko, Machado, Sexton, and Zoref, are recognized for their debut work. let's see how many of them will go on to be on the shortlist.

Updated 04 Oct: Could Jesmyn Ward be a two-time NBA winner? She is, arguably, the only big name in the NBA finalist list as Egan failed to make the cut. Could it be Ko or Machado with their debuts? Or could it be Akerman's war literature or Lee's migratory tale that will emerge victorious? We'll have to wait till November to find out.

Updated 18 Oct: George Saunders won the Man Booker prize with "Lincoln in the Bardo", the second consecutive year an American writer won since the prize was made available to American writers in 2014. I wonder what Julian Barnes has to say about this.

Updated 16 Nov: Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award with "Sing, Unburied, Sing", her second time success after "Salvage the Bones". She is developing into the unique Southern female black writer to watch out for. Always a delight when someone from the Farm wins a literary award.

Updated 17 Apr: I think it is reasonable to say that no one expected "less" to win the Pulitzer. Reminds me of the year "Tinker" won. Greer will most likely do an extensive book tour, but signed first editions will not be cheap. 

For a review of the 2016-2017 award winners and shortlist, click here.

NOBEL PRIZE – LITERATURE
Winner: 05 Oct 2017
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
MAN BOOKER PRIZE – FICTION
Judges: Lola Young, Lila Azam Zanganeh, Sarah Hall, Tom Phillips, Colin Thurbon
Winner: 17 October 2016
Finalists: 13 September 2017
Longlist: 27 July 2017
·      Paul Auster (US), 4 3 2 1 (Faber & Faber / Henry Holt)
·      Sebastian Barry (Ireland), Days Without End (Faber & Faber)
·      Emily Fridlund (US), History of Wolves (Weidenfeld & Nicolson / Grove Atlantic)
·      Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK), Exit West (Hamish Hamilton)
·      Mike McCormack (Ireland), Solar Bones (Canongate / Tramp Press) 
·      Jon McGregor (UK), Reservoir 13 (4th Estate)
·      Fiona Mozley (UK), Elmet (JM Originals)
·      Arundhati Roy (India), The Ministry of Happiness (Hamish Hamilton)
·      George Saunders (US), Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury Publishing / Random House)
·      Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan), Home Fire (Bloomsbury Circus)
·      Ali Smith (UK), Autumn (Hamish Hamilton)
·      Zadie Smith (UK), Swing Time (Hamish Hamilton)
·      Colson Whitehead (US), The Underground Railroad (Fleet / Doubleday)

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD – FICTION
Judges: Alexander Chee, Dave Eggers, Annie Philbrick, Karolina Waclawiak, Jacqueline Woodson
Winner: 15 November 2017
Finalists: 04 October 2017
Longlist: 15 September 2017

·      Elliot Ackerman, Dark at the Crossing (Knopf) 
·      Daniel Alarcon, The King is Always Above the People: Stories (Riverhead Books)
·      Charmaine Craig, Miss Burma (Grove Press) 
·      Jennifer Egan, Manhattan Beach (Scribner)  
·      Lisa Ko, The Leavers (Algonquin Books)  
·      Min Jin Lee, Pachinko (Grand Central Publishing) 
·      Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties: Stories (Graywolf Press)
·      Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, A Kind of Freedom (Counterpoint Press)
·      Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing (Scribner)
·      Carol Zoref, Barren Island (New Issues Poetry & Prose)

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD – FICTION
Winner: 15 March 2018
Finalists: 22 January 2018
  • Mohsin Hamid, Exit West (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Alice McDermott, The Ninth Hour (FSG)
  • Arundhati Roy (India), The Ministry of Happiness (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Joan Silber, Improvement (Counterpoint)
  • Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing (Scribner)

PULITZER PRIZE – FICTION
Winner: April 2018
Finalists: April 2018
  • Andrew Sean Greer, Less (Lee Boudreaux Books / Little, Brown)
  • Hernan Diaz, In the Distance (Coffee House Press)
  • Elif Batuman, The Idiot (Penguin Press)
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