Man Booker Prize 2013: Shortlist at a glance

Pile of shortlisted novels

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This year's Man Booker shortlist features six writers from across the globe: Canada, Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and, for the first time in the prize's history, Zimbabwe.

"Global in its reach, this exceptional shortlist demonstrates the vitality and range of the contemporary novel at its finest," said Robert Macfarlane, the chair of the judges.

"These six superb works of fiction take us from gold-rush New Zealand to revolutionary Calcutta, from modern-day Japan to the Holy Land of the Gospels, and from Zimbabwe to the deep English countryside. World-spanning in their concerns, and ambitious in their techniques, they remind us of the possibilities and power of the novel as a form."

Here is a guide to the six shortlisted books, and their authors.

We Need New Names

NoViolet Bulawayo reads from her novel We Need New Names

By NoViolet Bulawayo

Published by Chatto & Windus

We Need New Names cover

About the book: The story of Darling, a young girl who leaves her Zimbabwe shantytown for a new life in the United States.

About the author: NoViolet Bulawayo (her real name is Elizabeth Zandile Tshele) was born in Tsholotsho, Zimbabwe, in 1981. She is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University in California.

She is the author of the short story Hitting Budapest (2010), which won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing, and Snapshots (2009), shortlisted for the South Africa PEN Studzinsi Award. Her debut novel, We Need New Names, was published on 6 June.

The judges said: "This is a novel that fizzes throughout with stylistic verve, each chapter felt to us like a fresh adventure in language and perception."

The reviews said: "Bulawayo has created a debut that is poignant and moving but which also glows with humanity and humour." Leyla Sanai, The Independent

The Luminaries

Eleanor Catton: "I wanted to create an experience that was like looking at the night sky"

By Eleanor Catton

Published by Granta

The Luminaries cover

About the book: Catton's historical novel is about the 19th-century New Zealand gold rush. It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune, but is drawn into a series of complex mysteries.

About the author: Eleanor Catton was born in 1985 in Canada and raised in New Zealand. She currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

Her debut novel The Rehearsal (2008) was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, and longlisted for the Orange Prize. The Luminaries was published on 5 September.

The judges said: "It is an exuberant homage to Victorian sensation novels... with opium dens, fallen women, fortunes lost, found and squandered, murders and blackmail but it's a very knowing and post-modern homage to the sensation novel.

"I couldn't really think of many novels it was like, in some ways it seemed more like a Kiwi Twin Peaks."

The reviews said: "The Luminaries is a dazzling feat of a novel, the golden nugget in this year's Man Booker longlist, a pastiche quite unlike anything I've ever come across, so graceful is its plotting and structure." Lucy Scholes, The Observer

Harvest

Jim Crace: "This is a novel about xenophobia"

By Jim Crace

Published by Picador

Harvest cover

About the book: A tale of rural isolation set in an uncertain century, in which the narrator Walter Thirsk sees his village come under threat and fall apart over the course of seven days.

About the author: Jim Crace was born in Hertfordshire in 1946. He read English Literature at London University and worked for the VSO in Sudan as an assistant in Sudanese educational television.

His first book, Continent (1986), won the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize. Quarantine (1997) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Being Dead (1999) won the Whitbread Novel Award, the National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (USA) and was shortlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award.

Crace was awarded the EM Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1992 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999. Harvest was published on 14 February.

The judges said: "One of its real strengths is that it's very hard to categorise - it's not a period piece, nor is it in any way crudely allegorical. When you think about the eruption of strangers into his closed world you begin to get a glimpse of some the troubling debates of modern life."

The reviews said: "Crace writes with a particular, haunting empathy for the displaced. Indeed, displacement doubles as his theme and as his storytelling strategy. By transposing contemporary anxieties onto distant times he allows us to feel them afresh." Rob Nixon, New York Times

The Lowland

Jhumpa Lahiri reads from her novel The Lowland

By Jhumpa Lahiri

Published by Bloomsbury

The Lowland

About the book: Brothers Subhash and Udayan are inseparable as children in Calcutta. As the years pass - as US tanks roll into Vietnam, as riots sweep across India and the Communist movement begins to take root - Udayan's increasingly radical beliefs create aftershocks within his family and across decades of Indian and American history.

About the author: Jhumpa Lahiri was born in 11 July, 1967 in London and raised in Rhode Island. She is a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, appointed by US President Barack Obama.

She is the author of four works of fiction: Interpreter of Maladies (1999), which won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; The Namesake (2003), adapted into the film of the same name; Unaccustomed Earth (2008); and The Lowland, which was published on 8 September. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The judges said: "This is a novel about distance and separation, it's also about the impossibility of leaving certain kinds of past behind - no matter how you try and flee them. It is calm and lucid in its tone and devastating in the sadness that it gathers over its length."

The reviews said: "There is no doubt that The Lowland confirms Lahiri as a writer of formidable powers and great depth of feeling, who makes the business of conjuring a story from the chaos of human lives seem quite effortless." Stephanie Merritt, The Observer

A Tale for the Time Being

Ruth Ozeki: 'If there's one theme in the book, it's the theme of interconnectedness.'

By Ruth Ozeki

Published by Canongate

A Tale for the Time Being

About the book: A coming-of-age novel about the nature of time. Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home on the Canadian coast. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl, Nao. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into a mystery...

About the author: Ruth Ozeki was born in 1956 in New Haven, Connecticut, and raised by an American father and a Japanese mother. She studied English and Asian Studies at Smith College. In June 2010 she was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest.

With a Canadian passport, she divides her time between British Columbia and New York. She is the author of three novels: My Year of Meats (1998), All Over Creation (2002) and A Tale for the Time Being, which was published on 11 March.

The judges said: "A Zen novel, it's about dualities at every level... it is incredibly clever and incredibly sweet, it is big hearted and a novel we decided was most likely to make us realise the process of reading 152 books could make us feel Zen, rather than a little tired."

The reviews said: "What binds it all together is the voice of Nao, who manages to be both a convincingly self-obsessed Tokyo teenager and a sympathetic and engaging narrator. And as she navigates the end of her childhood (and, perhaps, her life) through a mist of cultural confusion, she provides us with a compelling coming-of-age story." Beth Jones, The Telegraph

The Testament of Mary

Colm Toibin: 'I understood that I was playing with fire, and that gave me a sort of energy'

By Colm Toibin

Published by Viking

The Testament of Mary cover

About the book: At 101 pages, the shortest book on the shortlist, The Testament of Mary presents the mother of Jesus grieving angrily years on from her son's crucifixion. As her life and her suffering begin to acquire the resonance of myth, Mary struggles to break the silence surrounding what she knows to have happened.

About the author: Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, in May 1955 and educated at University College Dublin.

His novels include The South (1990); The Heather Blazing (1992); The Story of the Night (1996); The Blackwater Lightship (1999), shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize; The Master (2004), also Booker shortlisted and Brooklyn (2009), which won the Costa Novel Award and was Man Booker longlisted.

The judges said: "A beautifully crafted passionate story that most people think they already know, but Toibin turns that story into something wonderfully fresh and strange. This is a short novel but one that lives long in the memory."

The reviews said: "Lovely, understated and powerfully sad, The Testament of Mary finally gives the mother of Jesus a chance to speak. And, given that chance, she throws aside the blue veil of the Madonna to become wholly, gloriously human." Annalisa Quinn, NPR Books

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