LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. writers captured only two of the six places on the Man Booker Prize 2014 shortlist announced on Tuesday, easing traditionalists’ fears that Americans would dominate the contest now it is open for the first time to all authors writing in English.
Joshua Ferris is nominated for “To Rise Again at a Decent Hour”, which follows a New York dentist who becomes the victim of an online impersonator. Fellow American Karen Joy Fowler is in the running for “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” about a young woman who was raised with a chimpanzee as a sister.
With his nomination for “J”, a love story set in an Orwellian world, Howard Jacobson could become the first man to win twice. The other contenders are Australia’s Richard Flanagan and Britons Neel Mukherjee and Ali Smith, who has also made the shortlist before.
In previous years, entry was limited to novels written by citizens of Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth. This year’s 14-strong long list saw six Americans in contention, prompting concerns that non-U.S. talent might be squeezed out.
At a news conference, judges praised the depth and range of the shortlist for the 46-year-old prize, worth 50,000 pounds ($85,200).
The chair of the panel, AC Grayling, said: “As the Man Booker Prize expands its borders, these six exceptional books take the reader on journeys around the world, between the UK, New York, Thailand, Italy, Calcutta and times past, present and future.
“It is a strong, thought-provoking shortlist which we believe demonstrates the wonderful depth and range of contemporary fiction in English.”
The prize committee said 154 books had been entered for this year’s prize and the winner would be named on Oct. 14. Previous winners include Salman Rushdie and Iris Murdoch.
The books on the shortlist are:
Joshua Ferris (US) for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking); Richard Flanagan (Australia) for The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus); Karen Joy Fowler (US) for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent’s Tail); Howard Jacobson (UK) for J (Jonathan Cape); Neel Mukherjee (UK) for The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus) and Ali Smith (UK) for How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton)
Reporting by Hannah Murphy; Editing by Mark Trevelyan