Oh Man - that Booker Prize really turned a new page
The Man Booker Prize longlist has been announced, and for the first time it includes a graphic novel
A graphic novel has been included on the Man Booker Prize longlist for the first time, as the literary award looks beyond the old guard to feature “fresh” new voices.
Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso, the US writer and illustrator, features a woman whose shocking death is captured on video and goes viral on social media, becoming fodder for conspiracy theorists in a world of “fake news”.
Drnaso, 29, is one of four authors under the age of 30 on a list filled with newcomers. There is no place for past Booker winners who were eligible this year, including Julian Barnes, Alan Hollinghurst and Peter Carey.
The only long-established name is Michael Ondaatje, who shared the prize in 1992 for The English Patient and returns this year with Warlight.
The judges praised Drnaso’s work as “oblique, subtle, minimal, unmanipulative”, and said: “Given the changing shape of fiction, it was only a matter of time before a graphic novel was included on the longlist. Sabrina makes demands on the reader in precisely the way all good fiction does.”
The judging panel included Leanne Shapton, an artist and graphic novelist.
Val McDermid, the crime writer and member of the panel, said: “Because Leanne has that experience, she was able to explain to the rest of us how to read a graphic novel.
“A lot of younger readers turn to the graphic novel. Those of us only accustomed to print are going to have to learn to read graphic novels,” she said.
Drnaso’s book is “telling a story” like any other novel, McDermid said. She said the judges had not consciously sought to shake up the prize. “We were consciously looking for the best books, she said. “We were looking for freshness and strong narrative.”
In a further break with tradition, the longlist includes a novel written in verse, The Long Take, by Scottish poet Robin Robertson. The judges described it as “like a film noir on the page ... Robertson shows the flexibility a poet can bring to form and style.”
The shortlist of six books will be unveiled on September 20, with the winner of the £50,000 (R875,000) prize to be announced on October 16.
Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the judges, said: “Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the times, there were many dystopian fictions on our bookshelf — and many novels we found inspirational as well as disturbing.
“Some of those we have chosen for this longlist feel urgent and topical; others might have been admired and enjoyed in any year.
“All of these books — whether taking in slavery, ecology, missing persons, inner-city violence, young love, prisons, trauma, race — capture something about a world on the brink.”
Asked if it was a longlist for the age of Trump, McDermid said: “Populism, apparently, doesn’t do comedy.”
– © The Daily Telegraph