Bookseller Briefing 22/18 – week ending 1 June

The Bookseller

Mantel, Saunders, Ondaatje make Man Booker ‘Golden Five’

George Saunders, Hilary Mantel and Michael Ondaatje are among the names to have been shortlisted for the Golden Man Booker Prize, created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the coveted literary award.

The ‘Golden Five’ – the books thought to have “best stood the test of time” have been revealed as: In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul (Picador); Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively (Penguin); The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (Bloomsbury); Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate); and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Bloomsbury).

All 51 previous winners of the award were considered for the prize by a panel of five specially appointed judges, each of whom was tasked with reading the winning novels from one decade of the prize’s history.

In a Free State by Naipaul represents the first decade of the prize, the 1970s, and was chosen by writer and editor Robert McCrum, who described it as “outstandingly the best novel to win the Booker Prize in the 1970s, a disturbing book about displaced people at the dangerous edge of a disrupted world that could have been written yesterday, a classic for all seasons”.

Naipaul, who also received the Nobel Prize for Literature, is the oldest living winner of the Booker Prize.

Moon Tiger by Lively was picked by poet Lemn Sissay MBE (right) to represent the best winner of 1980s. Sissay said: “Lively’s ability to bring her character and the world she inhabits into full technicolour is beautiful. This is a unique book about a fascinating unpredictable woman way ahead of her time and yet absolutely of her time.”

Lively, who was twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize before her win with Moon Tiger, will be appearing in an event, ‘Sex, Love & Families’, alongside Anne Enright at the Man Booker 50 Festival on 7th July.

The English Patient by Ondaatje was selected by novelist Kamila Shamsie for the 1990s, who called it, “that rare novel which gets under your skin and insists you return to it time and again, always yielding a new surprise or delight.” The Oscar-winning film adaptation of the novel will be screened at 7.30pm on 7th July at the Man Booker 50 Festival, where Ondaatje will also appear in a one-to-one discussion at 2.30pm on 8th July with Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro.

Wolf Hall by Mantel (right) was chosen as the best winner from the noughties by broadcaster and novelist Simon Mayo. Mantel is the only woman to have won the Man Booker Prize twice and Wolf Hall has since been adapted for TV and stage. Mayo said that “in its questioning of what England is and how it can disengage from Rome … [Wolf Hall is a] book as anguished as any essay about Brexit you’ll read in the papers.” Mantel is taking part in several events at the Man Booker 50 Festival, including the opening event, ‘Rewriting the Past’, with Pat Barker at 7.30pm on Friday 6th July and a sold-out BBC World Book Club.

Lincoln in the Bardo by Saunders, the most recent winner of the Man Booker Prize, was selected by poet Hollie McNish for the 2010s. Although well-known as a short story writer, the book is Saunders’ first full-length novel. McNish said: “I have never read a book like Lincoln in the Bardo… it was so funny, imaginative and tragic, but also a piece of genius in its originality of form and structure.”

The Golden Man Booker Prize is being supported by retail chains, bookshops and libraries across the UK, with point of sale material, displays, newsletters, staff picks, competitions and social media campaigns.

The shortlisted publishers are also getting behind the Golden Five. Bloomsbury Publishing has chosen to reprint The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, honouring the Golden Man Booker by using the original jacket used when it was published in 1992.

Meanwhile Penguin is reprinting and re-jacketing Lively’s Moon Tiger and 4th Estate is re-jacketing Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall with a golden cover.

Readers are now invited to choose their favourite from the shortlist, with the month-long public vote on the Man Booker Prize website open until 25th June.

The winner will be announced and presented with a trophy at Golden Man Booker Live, the closing event of the Man Booker 50 Festival at Southbank Centre on 8th July 2018 at 7pm. The event will feature the five judges debating their shortlisted books, along with readings from actors.

The Man Booker 50 Festival runs from 6th to 8th July 2018 across Southbank Centre’s 17-acre site in London. They range from interviews and conversations between Man Booker winning and shortlisted authors, to debates and masterclasses. The full programme and tickets are available at the festival’s website.

Tomorrow (27th May) at 10am, Hay Festival is holding a Golden Man Booker Prize panel event, chaired by Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, featuring Elif Shafak, Philippe Sands and Juan Gabriel Vasquez, who will choose their own winner from the shortlist.

Since a rule change came into effect in 2014 the Booker Prize Foundation has been under fire for its admission of US writers. In February the debate was stirred up again by a letter signed by at least 30 editors urging organisers to reverse their decision.

Nobel Prize for Literature’s future depends on Academy ‘restoring trust’

The Nobel Prize in Literature may not be awarded in 2019 unless trust is restored in the Swedish Academy that administers the prize, the Nobel Foundation’s executive director Lars Heikensten has said.

The Swedish Academy has been dogged by scandal following allegations of sexual misconduct made towards one of its associates, which led to nearly half the 18-strong Academy resigning their posts.

In the wake of the allegations, the academy called off the 2018 prize, saying instead that it would be awarded in parallel with the 2019 prize. However, Heikensten has now said the 2019 prize may also be postponed unless trust is restored in the academy.

Writing on the Nobel Prize’s website, Heikensten said: “The Swedish Academy’s goal is to make its decision on the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature and to announce it together with the 2019 Prize. We hope that this will be the case, but it depends on the Swedish Academy restoring its trust.”

According to the executive director, the harassment scandal triggered a “crisis” in the institution and has brought other issues out into the open including conflicts between the individuals involved and more structural, organisational issues within the Academy, related to, for example, rules on confidentiality and conflicts of interest.

Heikenstein suggested that more transparancy and openness is necessary for trust in the organisation to be restored. He argued that the Academy had cultivated a “closed culture over a long period of time”, which was was “likely to be challenged at one time or another”.

“Personally, I am convinced that greater openness towards the outside world would be good for the Swedish Academy,” he said. “It will strengthen the institution long-term and enable it to re-establish confidence. I believe that in the end something good will come out of this situation, even if that of course has not been the feeling during recent weeks.”

The Swedish Academy’s decision does not affect the work of selecting Laureates for the Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Peace and Economic Sciences. The selection processes for these prizes are handled by other independent institutions.

Japanese-born British writer Kazuo Ishiguro won the Prize in 2017. In 2016 it was reluctantly scooped by US singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, who to the embarrassment of the Academy took weeks to acknowledge the win.