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Indian-origin author Avni Doshi’s ‘Burnt Sugar’ in 2020 Booker Prize longlist

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Indian-origin author Avni Doshi’s “Burnt Sugar” and two titles from Bloomsbury – “Apeirogon” by Colum McCann and “Such a Fun Age” – by Kiley Reid are among the 13 books in the 50,000 pounds Booker Prize 2020 longlist announced, with jury chair Margaret Busby saying that each of them “carries an impact… deserving of wide readership”.

Indian-origin author Avni Doshi’s ‘Burnt Sugar’ in 2020 Booker Prize longlist
Author Avni Doshi. (Photo: Sharon Haridas)

The longlist was drawn up on Tuesday by a panel of five judges that apart from Busby, included editor, literary critic and former publisher author Lee Child; author and critic Sameer Rahim; writer and broadcaster Lemn Sissay; and classicist and translator Emily Wilson.

The list was chosen from 162 novels published in the UK or Ireland between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020. The Booker Prize is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

The shortlist of six books will be announced on September 15 and the winner, who can expect international recognition, will be announced in November. Each of the shortlisted authors will receive 2,500 pounds and a specially bound edition of their book.

The 2020 longlist, or ‘The Booker Dozen’ as it is known, is: Avni Doshi (US), “Burnt Sugar” (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House); Diane Cook (US), “The New Wilderness” (Oneworld Publications); Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe), “This Mournable Body” (Faber & Faber) , Gabriel Krauze (UK), Who They Was (4th Estate, HarperCollins), Hilary Mantel (UK), “The Mirror & The Light” (4th Estate, HarperCollins); Colum McCann (Ireland/US), Apeirogon (Bloomsbury Publishing), Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/US), “The Shadow King” (Canongate Books), Kiley Reid (US), “Such a Fun Age” (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing) ; Brandon Taylor (US), “Real Life” (Originals, Daunt Books Publishing); Anne Tyler (US), “Redhead by The Side of The Road (Chatto & Windus, Vintage); Douglas Stuart (Scotland/US), “Shuggie Bain” (Picador, Pan Macmillan); Sophie Ward (UK), “Love and Other Thought Experiments” (Corsair, Little, Brown) ; and C. Pam Zhang (US), “How Much of These Hills is Gold” (Virago, Little, Brown).

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“Each of these books carries an impact that has earned it a place on the longlist, deserving of wide readership. Included are novels carried by the sweep of history with memorable characters brought to life and given visibility, novels that represent a moment of cultural
change, or the pressures an individual faces in pre- and post-dystopian society,” Margaret Busby said.

“Some of the books focus on interpersonal relationships that are complex, nuanced, emotionally charged. There are voices from minorities often unheard, stories that are fresh, bold and absorbing. The best fiction enables the reader to relate to other people’s lives; sharing experiences that we could not ourselves have imagined is as powerful as being able to identify with characters.

“As judges we connected with these writers’ well-crafted prose, the mastery of detail, the arresting sentence, the credibility of the narrative arc, the ability to use to the full, the resources of storytelling. Unplanned, our final selection encompasses both seasoned
favourites and debut talents ? a truly satisfying outcome,” Busby added.

Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, noted that when the judges had drawn up their longlist, one of them asked: ‘Out of interest, how many debuts are there?’

“We counted. It was more than half the list. That’s an unusually high proportion, and especially surprising to the judges themselves, who had admired many books by more established authors, and regretted having to let them go. It is perhaps obvious that powerful stories can come from unexpected places and in unfamiliar forms; nevertheless, this kaleidoscopic list serves as a reminder.

“In this year of seismic change, visibility for new books published in the UK has been drastically low. 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,” Wood added.

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