In England: The Booker Prize’s Four-Nation Shortlist

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland, and Canada are represented in the Booker Prize for Fiction’s 2023 shortlist.

Image: Booker Prize Foundation

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Edugyan: ‘A Kind of Relentless Truth-Telling’
A group of six writers are getting their first shortlistings from the Booker Prize for Fiction in London this evening (September 21) at the National Portrait Gallery. These authors include a Briton, two Americans, a Canadian, and two Irish novelists. To be considered for a Booker Prize, a work can be written in English by an author “from anywhere in the world,” as long as the book is published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

For our world industry readership, the Booker Prize for Fiction is not to be confused, of course, with the International Booker Prize, which is focused on translation.

The winner of this, the primary award in the Booker Foundation’s work, receives £50,000 (US$61,474). Each of the six authors eventually shortlisted is to receive £2,500 (US$3,073) and a specially bound edition of her or his book. The winner also receives a copy of the Jan Pieńkowski figurine, called the “Iris” in honor of the 1978 Booker winning author.

The winner is to be named on November 26 at Old Billingsgate.

Looking at the sales impact the Booker Prize’s top honor conferred on last year’s laureate, Shehan Karunatilaka—on winning for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida—according to the book’s publisher, Sort of Books, saw sales rise to more than 100,000 units across all formats. The book now been translated into 19 languages with another 10 reportedly in process. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida has massively outsold—by 2,000 percent—Karunatilaka’s previously acclaimed and prizewinning novel, Chinaman (Jonathan Cape, 2012).

Publishing Perspectives readers are also pleased to have found the British Academy Book Prize becoming the first in the nonfiction awards realm to follow the Booker’s example in reporting some figures that reflect the effect a win can have on a publisher’s and author’s sales.

In a pre-announcement press conference this morning, the jurors seemed at a loss to respond to a question about the fact that four of the six shortlistees are men—and, less seriously, that three of those men are named Paul.

While uncertain about questions as to male consumers and fiction, the jurors did make the point clearly that they have selected the six books they have determined are worthiest of being shortlisted and that author gender is not a criterion in that decision.

The Booker Prize for Fiction 2023 Shortlist

Authors shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize for Fiction are, from left on the upper row, Sarah Bernstein (image: Alice Meikle); Jonathan Escoffery (image Cola Greenhill-Casado); and Paul Harding. And from left on the lower row, you see Paul Lynch (image: Joel Saget); Chetna Maroo (image Graeme Jackson); and Paul Murray (image: Chris Maddaloni)

Two of the six books on the list this time are debut publications. One publisher—Penguin Random House—is behind two of the six shortlisted titles. Pan Macmillan and HarperCollins UK have one each. Independent publishers Granta and Juliet Mabey’s Oneworld have published one each.

Author Nationality Title Publisher, Imprint
Sarah Bernstein Canadian Study for Obedience Granta Books
Jonathan Escoffery American If I Survive You HarperCollins UK / 4th Estate
Paul Harding American This Other Eden Penguin Random House / Hutchinson Heinemann
Paul Lynch Irish Prophet Song Oneworld
Chetna Maroo British Western Lane Pan Macmillan / Picador
Paul Murray Irish The Bee Sting Penguin Random House / Hamish Hamilton
Wood: ‘A List Without Borders’

As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember from our longlist report, this year’s jury comprises:

  • Novelist Esi Edugyan (chair), twice-shortlisted for the Booker Prize
  • Adjoa Andoh, actor, writer and director
  • Mary Jean Chan, poet, lecturer and critic
  • James Shapiro, author and professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, a specialist in Shakespeare
  • Robert Webb, actor and writer

Gaby Wood

Gaby Wood, CEO of the Booker Prize Foundation is quoted on the release of this year’s shortlist, saying, “This is truly a list without borders. It includes a Briton of Indian descent, an American of Jamaican descent, a Canadian recently named one of Granta’s best young British novelists, and two Irish authors.

“Though new to the Booker shortlist, all of these writers have been lauded elsewhere or in other ways. One has been longlisted for the Booker with a previous novel. One has won the Pulitzer. A third has just been longlisted for Canada’s Giller Prize. Another has been nominated, in translation, for the two most prestigious French prizes. The two debut authors have both won the Plimpton Prize, awarded by the Paris Review.

“It’s a pleasure to be bringing their extraordinary talents and vastly varied styles to Booker Prize readers.”

Esi Edugyan

In a comment, Edugyan, the jury chair, is quoted, saying, “The best novels invoke a sense of timelessness even while saying something about how we live now. Our six finalists are marvels of form.

“Some look unflinchingly at the ways in which trauma can be absorbed and passed down through the generations, as much an inheritance as a well-worn object or an unwanted talent. Some turn a gleeful, dissecting eye on everyday encounters. Some paint visceral portraits of societies pushed to the edge of tolerance.

“All are fueled by a kind of relentless truth-telling, even when that honesty forces us to confront dark acts. And yet however long we may pause in the shadows, humor, decency, and grace are never far from hand.”

The jury of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 2023: Standing, from left, are Robert Webb, Adjoa Andoh, and Mary Jean Chan. Seated are Esi Edugyan and James Shapiro. Image: Booker Prize Foundation, David Parry


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Booker Prize for Fiction is here. More on the International Booker Prize is here, more from Publishing Perspectives on both Booker Prize programs is here. And more from us on the international industry’s many book and publishing awards programs overall is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.