Australian author Richard Flanagan was woken by a phone call at 3am with the news that his prisoner-of-war novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North has been shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.
“I am speechless in Seattle,” his publisher, Penguin Random House, quoted him as saying.
“It is a great honour and I am delighted, but it is overwhelming news.”
Flanagan is currently on a book tour in America to promote The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which is described as a “savagely beautiful” novel centred on Australian POWs in a Japanese camp on the Thai-Burma railway. Flanagan’s own father, Archie, was a survivor of the “death railway”, and author dedicated the novel to him.
He is the only Australian on the shortlist of six for the STG50,000 ($A91,000) Man Booker Prize, which also features Howard Jacobson’s J, Ali Smith’s How to be Both, Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives Of Others, Joshua Ferris’s To Rise Again At a Decent Hour and Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.
The judges praised the “depth and range” of the list, which for the first time was open to any author writing originally in English and published in the UK, resulting in two American authors (Ferris and Fowler) making the cut. Previously, the prize was open to authors from the UK and Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.
“As the Man Booker Prize expands its borders, these six exceptional books take the reader on journeys around the world, between the UK, New York, Thailand, Italy, Calcutta and times past, present and future,” said chair of the 2014 judges AC Grayling.
“We had a lengthy and intensive debate to whittle the list down to these six. It is a strong, thought-provoking shortlist which we believe demonstrates the wonderful depth and range of contemporary fiction in English.”
The Narrow Road to the Deep North also saw Flanagan shortlisted this year for the fourth time for Australia’s Miles Franklin Award, but it is the first time he has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. If he was to win, it would be the second year running the prize has gone to an Australasian author; last year’s winner was New Zealander Eleanor Catton, with her historic novel The Luminaries, set during the gold rush era.
The 2014 Man Booker Prize winner will be announced on October 14 in London.
Click here to read InDaily’s review of Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
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