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The Man Booker International boarding gate

The Man Booker International boarding gate

Mindful of the fact that their shortlist announcement is a little over a fortnight away (15th September), this year's Man Booker Prize judges currently have their noses deep into second readings of the 13 books on their longlist. How they must long for the state of grace currently enjoyed by the just-announced judges for the new look Man Booker International Prize. The chair, Boyd Tonkin, and his peers – Tahmina Anam, David Bellos, Daniel Medin and Ruth Padel – can look forward to the coming year's work with excitement and expectation, as travellers about to embark on the voyage of a lifetime. This, though, is the calm before the storm: the judges have only a little over six months in which to winnow something in the region of 150 submissions down to a longlist of 12/13. We should crack a bottle of fizz across their bows and wish them well.


A Man Booker heroine, Margaret Atwood (winner in 2000 and a four times shortlistee) has found herself caught up in a spat so bizarre and dystopian it could come from one of her own novels. Having written a piece for Canada's National Post poking fun at the Prime Minister Stephen Harper's follicle-perfect hair, she found the piece, submitted nine days earlier, removed from the paper's website in a matter of hours. The respective coiffures of the leading prime ministerial candidates has become a talking point ahead of the country's elections in October so Atwood was not entirely left field in her topic. ‘Um, did I just get censored? For my flighty little caper on Hair?’ Atwood tweeted, while the hashtag #Hairgate began to trend. For a writer who spends her life making things up well, you couldn't make it up.


In a recent Q&A with an Indian newspaper, Anuradha Roy, one of this year's longlisted novelists, clearly began to reach the limits of her patience. Having dutifully answered various questions, she was asked: ‘Your perception of violence is very detached and authentic...more of an odd mix, which makes the narrative gripping. Was it a conscious decision to represent this through the eyes of a child in Sleeping on Jupiter?’ Her response? ‘Yes, of course.’ The follow-up fared no better: ‘Indians seem to be fed with conservative hostility nowadays, be it a book, film, documentary or even a cartoon. Why is a plural society like ours turning more communal socially and politically?’ ‘I don’t know the answer to that.’ Roy saved the best, or rather, pithiest, until last, however: ‘What are your chances of winning the award?’ ‘How would I know?’ She has a point, how would she?


The latest Man Booker novel to be adapted for the big screen (sometimes it seems as if the whole movie business would sink without a trace were it not for the impetus provided by Man Booker books) is Patrick deWitt’s 2011 shortlisted novel The Sisters Brothers. The book tells the story of two brothers hired to murder a prospector during the California Gold Rush and the complications, moral and otherwise that ensue. The mobile-faced John C Reilly, best known for his roles in We Need to Talk About Kevin, Chicago and Boogie Nights, while the director is the Frenchman Jacques Audiard, auteur of the brutal crime drama A Prophet.


In other news, Foyles bookshop in London offered two of their Foyalty card members a very exciting proposition: the chance to star in the upcoming film adaptation of 2011 winner Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending. A scene will be filmed in the café at Foyles’ flagship store this weekend. See if you can spot the bookish Foyles customers when the film comes out!