Four debut novels make 2020 Booker Prize shortlist
Published: Sep 16, 2020 06:28 PM

Joint winners Margaret Atwood (left) and Bernardine Evaristo attend the Booker Prize photocall in London on October 14, 2019. Photo: IC

Four debut novelists were on Tuesday shortlisted alongside Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga and Ethiopian-American Maaza Mengiste for the Booker Prize for best English-language fiction, to be awarded in November.

American Avni Doshi's first novel Burnt Sugar will compete with fellow US debutants Diane Cook (The New Wilderness) and Brandon Taylor (Real Life), and Scotland's Douglas Stuart (Shuggie Bain), for one of the world's most celebrated literary awards.

Dangarembga's This Mournable Body and The Shadow King by Mengiste make up the six-strong shortlist of four women and two men.

It was whittled down by a panel of five judges from a US-dominated longlist of 13 finalists, which had included veteran Hilary Mantel.

"The shortlist of six came together unexpectedly, voices and characters resonating with us all even when very different," Margaret Busby, chair of the 2020 judges panel, said in a statement. 

"It's a wondrous and enriching variety of stories, and hugely exciting as well," she added, noting they ranged in setting from 1980s Glasgow and post-colonial Zimbabwe to 1930s Ethiopia and modern-day India.

The title of best work of English-language fiction published in the UK 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.

The competition tore up the rule book in 2019 by splitting the fiction award between Canada's Margaret Atwood and Anglo-Nigerian author Bernardine Evaristo.

It has already courted controversy in 2020 by pitting nine Americans or dual-US citizens against three Britons.