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Man Booker Weekly Roundup: The unusual appeal of Cromwell

Man Booker Weekly Roundup: The unusual appeal of Cromwell

Good news for both Jim Crace and his readers. Crace, Man Booker shortlisted last year for Harvest, has just been named as one of the recipients of the $150,000 Windham Campbell Literature Prizes. The awards are given as both a recognition of the writers’ achievements and to support future work. Also among those honoured are Aminatta Forna (Man Booker International Prize judge 2013) and Nadeem Aslam (Man Booker International Prize Judge 2015). The really good news for Crace fans is that he seems to be having a change of mind about his decision to give up writing. The timing of the prize, he says, “couldn't be more perfect”. “After a couple of years of creative doubt when I thought I might not write another novel but should turn instead to the theatre, I have rediscovered my passion for fiction. Stories are crowding in, demanding their space on the page.” The cash award will give him “the independence and the confidence to take on those stories, free from everyday pressures.”

John Banville, Man Booker winner in 2005 with The Sea, has a sideline writing detective novels under the pseudonym Benjamin Black. Black’s latest outing (after being approached by the Raymond Chandler estate) is to revive Chandler’s detective hero Philip Marlowe and give him a new case. The resulting book is The Black-Eyed Blonde. Asked about the difference between his writing personas, Banville recently said: “Black has more fun. Banville has less fun. It takes three months to write a Black book. It takes two to five years to write a Banville book. Banville writes with concentration versus the spontaneity of Black. It's an entirely different way to write.” Perhaps the answer would be for the double author to allow “Banville” to have a little more fun and a little less time.

Further to the exciting news that the RSC stage adaptations of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are transferring to the Aldwych Theatre in London in May (“sources close to” the production say more than £2.5 million in advance bookings has already been taken) the author has summed up her hero Thomas Cromwell’s appeal: he is simply “someone who might knife you”. An interesting take on what makes a man attractive...

A.S Byatt, Man Booker winner in 1990 with Possession, is not impressed with the current state of British fiction. Reflecting on George Saunders Folio Prize win she noted that while the American books on the shortlist were “inventive and beautifully written”, she nevertheless didn’t think “there's one that is the slightest bit interested in Britain or Europe or Africa or Asia". She went on to contrast today’s generation with her own (Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch, Anthony Burgess and William Golding): “I don't have the feeling of that kind of energy any more.” She also worries that “ebooks and the sort of overexcitement about online writing isn’t doing British publishing any good”. If Dame Antonia can wait another four months – until 23rd July to be precise - the accuracy of her reflections can be put to the test when the Man Booker longlist is announced.