July 23: British-Indian author Neel Mukherjee has been long-listed for the Man Booker 2014, which has allowed novels written in English from across the globe for the first time, for his second book, The Lives of Others.
Mukherjee, who is based in London, was born in Calcutta and studied in the city before moving on to Oxford and Cambridge. He did his masters in creative writing from University of East Anglia in 2001 and reviews fiction for The Times, London, and The Sunday Telegraph, London.
The Lives of Others is set in Calcutta in the 1960s and revolves around the dysfunctional but wealthy Ghosh family and their internal strife and the protagonist, Supratik, who gets drawn into extremist political activity.
The book has been described by writer Amitav Ghosh, with whom Mukherjee shared the Vodafone -Crossword Award 2008 for his first book, Past Continuous (A Life Apart in the UK), as “searing, savage and deeply moving: an unforgettably vivid picture of a time of turmoil”.
Karen Joy Fowler and Joshua Ferris are among four American novelists who made it to the long list. It also included six books written by Britons, two by Irish authors and one by the Australian Richard Flanagan.
The list includes To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Ferris; The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” by Flanagan; We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Fowler; The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (United States); J, by Howard Jacobson (Britain); The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth (Britain); The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell (Britain); Us, by David Nicholls (Britain); The Dog, by Joseph O’Neill (Ireland); Orfeo, by Richard Powers (United States); How to be Both, by Ali Smith (Britain) and History of the Rain, by Niall Williams (Ireland).
The decision to celebrate all authors “whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai” has rankled some purists; until last year, the £50,000 , or roughly $85,000, prize was restricted to authors from Britain, the other countries in the Commonwealth, as well as Ireland and Zimbabwe.
But A.C. Grayling, the British philosopher and writer who chairs the new and expanded panel of six judges, has called the change an “exciting” challenge. He said 2014 would be a “highly significant year” for the prize.
Judges now have until September 9 to whittle down the number of contenders to a shortlist of six. The winner is expected to be announced on October 14.
Last year, Eleanor Catton, a novelist from New Zealand, won the Booker for The Luminaries, an 832-page tale set in the 19th-century goldfields of her homeland.
Catton, at 28, was the youngest recipient of the award in its 45-year history and her book is the longest ever to win. Catton said in a statement today that it was a “really great thing that finally we’ve got a prize that is an English-language prize that doesn’t make a distinction for writers who are writing from a particular country”.
The Booker was first awarded in 1969 and winners have included V.S. Naipaul, William Golding, Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood. Grayling said that the small number of Commonwealth authors was partly a result of publishers preferring to submit books by American writers.