Byatt, Coetzee and Mantel top Man Booker shortlist

Tue Sep 8, 2009 9:02am EDT
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By Luke Baker

LONDON (Reuters) - Familiar names headed the shortlist for one of the world's top literary awards on Tuesday with JM Coetzee and AS Byatt two of the six authors left in the running for the coveted Man Booker Prize.

Byatt, 73, who won the prize in 1990 for her novel "Possession," makes the 2009 shortlist with "The Children's Book," the tale of a famous writer who pens a separate, private book for each of her children, complete with family mysteries.

The novel explores issues of class, love, politics and idealism among families across generations, exploring rebellious sons and wayward daughters who dream of independent futures.

Writers writing about writers also forms the basis of "Summertime," the 2009 entry for South African novelist Coetzee, a mainstay of the Man Booker shortlist in the recent years.

Coetzee, who will become the only writer to take the prize three times if he is named winner on October 6, tells the story of a young biographer who is working on a book about the late writer John Coetzee. As he interviews friends and relatives, a complex picture emerges of Coetzee's past and character.

The work completes a trilogy of fictionalized memoirs for Coetzee, 69, who has previously produced "Boyhood" and "Youth."

Coetzee, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003, first won the Booker prize in 1983 for "Life & Times of Michael K" and repeated the feat in 1999 with "Disgrace."

Another notable contender on the shortlist -- and one strongly backed by bookmakers who make her favorite for the 50,000 pound ($80,000) prize -- is Hilary Mantel, 57, whose intricately woven historical novels have a strong following.   Continued...

<p>John Maxwell Coetzee is pictured in a October 25, 1999 file picture. REUTERS/Str KM</p>