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Booker Prize 2022: Shortest books make shortlist

88-year-old Englishman Alan Garner, who wrote 'Treacle Walker', is the oldest author with shortest book in word count

Brenda Haas Published 07.09.22, 10:38 PM
Alan Garner: Oldest Booker nominee with shortest book by word count

Alan Garner: Oldest Booker nominee with shortest book by word count Deutsche Welle

88-year-old Englishman Alan Garner, who wrote Treacle Walker, is the oldest author to make the shortlist that includes entries from Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.

Britain's prestigious Booker Prize for fiction has revealed the six shortlisted books for this year's award — with the shortlist including two books that are the shortest ever in terms of word and page count.


If Englishman Alan Garner were to win for his novel Treacle Walker, about a young boy who is visited by a wandering healer, he will receive the award on his 88th birthday and thus become the oldest winner of the prize.

Related in around 15,000 words, the judges described Garner's book as a "mysterious, beautifully written and affecting glimpse into the deep work of being human," adding that it reduced some of the jury members to tears.

Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo was first shortlisted in 2013 for her debut, We Need New Names. Now, her second entry to make the shortlist is an Animal Farm -inspired political satire titled Glory. Narrated by a chorus of animals, the judges called it "a magical crossing of the African continent, in its political excesses and its wacky characters."

Shehan Karunatilaka is the second Sri Lankan author to make the Booker shortlist in two years. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is the second novel he has written and it tells the story of a photographer caught up in the horrors of civil war, which the judges described as "full of ghosts, gags and a deep humanity."

Americans Percival Everett and Elizabeth Strout were shortlisted for Trees and Oh William!, respectively, while Irish author Claire Keegan bookends the shortlist with Small Things Like These. At 116 pages, Keegan's is the shortest finalist by the number of pages in the Booker prize's 53-year history.

'Age is irrelevant'

Alan Garner, who gained fame through his children's fantasy titles and folk retellings, was nominated after six decades in print.

Commenting on being the oldest ever to be nominated for the prize, he told the BBC, Age, in itself, is irrelevant. However, as with all skills, an apprenticeship has to be served with practice, and experience".

The shortlist features an equal number of male and female finalists for whom a win could provide a career-changing boost in sales and public profile.

"These are, above all, books that we have enjoyed," said judging chair, historian Neil MacGregor, when he revealed the shortlist in central London on September 7, 2022.

"They're books that we want to recommend to others. They're not too long and that's maybe evidence that we're looking at not just great writing, but also some great editing," he added.

MacGregor noted most of the novels tackled "serious, sometimes tragic subjects" but all of them also featured "moments of high humor."

The 2022 winner will be announced on Monday, October 17, in an awards ceremony held at the Roundhouse in London. The six shortlisted authors will each receive £2,500 (€2,900) and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner will receive £50,000 (€58,000).

The Booker is Britain's foremost literary award for novels written in English. Previous winners include Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel.

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