September 9, 2008 / 5:55 PM / 10 years ago

Indian favorite to win Booker - but not Rushdie

LONDON (Reuters) - Tales from rural India, secretive Ireland and strike-riven northern England are all vying for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards.

The books on the shortlist for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction are seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/James Darling/Handout

Aravind Adiga, whose book “The White Tiger” tracks the ambitions and divided loyalties of the son of a rickshaw puller from an Indian village, is a first-time novelist.

The former TIME magazine correspondent is the bookmakers’ favorite to take the annual prize, worth 50,000 pounds ($88,000) to the winner.

A second Indian writer is on the shortlist of six, Kolkata-born Amitav Ghosh with “Sea of Poppies,” a story set on an old slave ship before the Opium Wars.

But there was no place for Mumbai-born Salman Rushdie, who was named “Best of the Booker” winners in July to mark the prize’s 40th anniversary.

The renowned novelist won the Booker prize in 1981 with “Midnight’s Children,” but his latest work “The Enchantress of Florence” failed to make the shortlist despite being heavily backed by bookies when it appeared on the longlist.

The second debut novelist on the shortlist this year is a former private investigator from Australia, Steve Toltz, and his book of familial adventure “A Fraction of the Whole.”

Linda Grant’s “The Clothes on Their Backs,” a book about the psychology of clothes, has been nominated, as has Irish writer Sebastian Barry, whose “The Secret Scripture” depicts the shocking story of a woman growing up in Sligo in the 1930s.

British novelist Philip Hensher uses the 1984 backdrop of the miners’ strike to follow the lives of two families and a changing social landscape in the north of England over 20 years in his book “The Northern Clemency.”

Chair of the judges Michael Portillo described each of the six pieces of work as an “extraordinary example of imagination and narrative,” as he announced the shortlist on Tuesday.

“These fine page-turning stories nonetheless raise highly thought-provoking ideas and issues. These books are in every case both ambitious and approachable.”

The Booker, founded in 1969, rewards the best novel of the year by a writer from Britain, Ireland or a Commonwealth country. The winner of the award will be announced on October 14.

Reporting by Avril Ormsby, editing by Paul Casciato

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