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Irish author Colum McCann longlisted for Booker Prize

McCann was nominated for his novel Apeirogon.

Image: PA

IRISH AUTHOR COLUM McCann has been longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. 

McCann was nominated for Apeirogon, which is about two Israeli and Palestinian fathers coming together over shared grief at losing their children. He was longlisted for his book TransAtlantic in 2013.

The Booker Prize panel called Apeirogon “a moving reflection on what it might mean to make peace between two warring sides.”

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, McCann said he was “shocked” to be longlisted, describing it as a “tremendous honour”. 

“I’m very cognisant of the fact there were many other Irish books that could have made the list,” he said. “Without sounding cliché, I hope I can fly the flag.”

Eight debut novelists are up against veterans Hilary Mantel and Tsitsi Dangarembga for the prize. 

“There are voices from minorities often unheard, stories that are fresh, bold and absorbing,” judges’ panel chair Margaret Busby said.

Unplanned, our final selection encompasses both seasoned favourites and debut talents – a truly satisfying outcome.

‘Seismic change’

The title of best work of English-language fiction published in the United Kingdom and Ireland has launched careers and caused countless arguments since its creation in 1969.

Past laureates have ranged from contemporary giants such as Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes to Kazuo Ishiguro and Roddy Doyle.

This year’s 13-title longlist – to be whittled down to a shortlist of six on 15 September before the winner is unveiled in November – features nine female authors.

“In this year of seismic change, visibility for new books published in the UK has been drastically low,” the Booker Prize Foundation’s literary director Gaby Wood said.

So, however unintended the ratio, it’s especially heartening to know that some authors who have launched their careers in the midst of Covid-19 may now have a chance to reach the readers they deserve.

The five-judge panel picked through 162 novels either published or scheduled for release in the 12 months ending on 30 September.

Britain was represented by Hilary Mantel – nominated for “he Mirror & The Light – and debutants Sophie Ward and Gabriel Krauze. Mantel won the Booker in 2009 for “Wolf Hall” and in 2012 for Bring Up the Bodies.

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The panel said her latest entry “completes a tragic arc in which Thomas Cromwell is finally brought down by the police state he designed”.

Mantel’s “masterful exhibition of sly dialogue and exquisite description brings the Tudor world alive,” the panel of judges said.

Panel chair Busby said the longlist features “novels carried by the sweep of history”.

The works “represent a moment of cultural change, or the pressures an individual faces in pre- and post-dystopian society,” she said.

Organisers said the 2020 winner will receive €55,000 “and can expect international recognition”.

- © AFP 2020 with reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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