The Man Booker Prize 2017
18 October 2017
George Saunders has won the 2017 Man Booker Prize for his novel Lincoln in the Bardo - becoming the second US author to take home the £50,000 fiction award. BBC Arts profiles the author below, along with the rest of the shortlist - which includes one of America’s greatest living writers and an author who works part time in a small bookshop.
Often controversial, rarely predictable and always much discussed, the Man Booker Prize is awarded annually to the novel the judges deem the best written in English and published in the UK that year. The winner receives £50,000 in addition to the £2,500 awarded to all six shortlisted authors. Three of the final six made it onto the list with their first novels. The chair of this year’s judges Lola, Baroness Young, described the contenders as "six unique and intrepid books that collectively push against the borders of convention".
2017 Authors Shortlisted
Paul Auster is the biggest name on the list and 4321 is by far the biggest book. It’s the story of the same boy told in four parallel yet independent narratives, rotating chapter by chapter, against the backdrop of the history of mid-twentieth century America. The judges called it "an ambitious, complex, epic narrative… that is essentially both human and humane".
In Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves, Linda, a teenage girl living on the edge of a lake in the American Midwest, befriends a mother and child living on the other side. When the father returns, Linda is shunned and fails to avert an impending tragedy. It’s an eerie coming-of-age story that plays with elements of the mystery and thriller genres.
Mohsin Hamid’s own experience of moving between Pakistan, England and the USA has informed Exit West, the story of Nadia and Saeed who meet, fall in love and move around the world through a series of strange black doors which facilitate global mass migration. Hamid was previously shortlisted for The Reluctant Fundamentalist in 2007.
Elmet is Fiona Mozley’s first novel. It concerns Daniel and Cathy who grow up with Daddy in the house he’s built for them, foraging and hunting in Yorkshire’s West Riding. It’s a lyrical commentary on contemporary English society and the judges described it as "timeless in its epic mixture of violence and love". Fiona also works part-time in a small bookshop in York.
George Saunders is an acclaimed short story writer but Lincoln in the Bardo is his first novel. Told through a chorus of 166 different voices, it’s set in the Washington cemetery which Abraham Lincoln visits alone in the middle of the night to commune with the body of his dead child Willie. According to the judges it’s "a novel with a rare capaciousness of mind and heart".
Ali Smith’s Autumn is her fourth book to be shortlisted and the first of a planned seasonally-titled quartet of novels. Autumn is set just after the EU referendum and explores how we perceive time through the minds of a thirty-something woman, a 101 year old man and retrospective glimpses of the 1960s pop artist Pauline Boty.