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Maximum impact prizes

Maximum impact prizes

It is longlist time again for the €100,000 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, won last year by Jim Crace for his Man Booker shortlisted Harvest. A clutch of Man Booker writers are in the running for the 2016 version having been included on the admittedly voluminous - ok, enormous - 160 book longlist. Among the titles nominated by 118 libraries around the world are the current Man Booker champion (Marlon James for A Brief History of Seven Killings) and a cluster of alumni including the former winner Ian McEwan (The Children Act), 2014 shortlistees Ali Smith (How to be Both) and David Nicholls (Us), as well as previous nominees David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks) and Colm Toíbín (Nora Webster). The winner is not announced until 9th June 2016, which at least gives the judges time to whittle their unmanageable list down to something more pert.

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks has had a good week, having just been awarded the 2015 World Fantasy Awards for Novel at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, New York. In fact only half the very long (640 pages in paperback) novel can really be called ‘fantasy’ which perhaps means that the rest of the novel could qualify for a realism in fiction award.

The nominations for Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways, Man Booker shortlisted this year, are not yet done. Sahota is also in the running for The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award. The annual gong is given to a writer of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish writer of 35 or under. Now in its 25th year several Man Booker alumni have been previous winners, Sarah Waters, Zadie Smith and Robert Macfarlane. Whether Sahota joins their number will be revealed on 10th December.

With a nice sense of timing Margaret Atwood has been talking about the lack of diversity in much classic fiction, in particular in the science fiction and fantasy literature she cut her teeth on as a young woman in the 1950s: ‘In Tolkien, there are hardly any women at all, only two, but three if you count the spider, which I do . . . With a name like Shelob you really can’t miss it,’ she pointed out. No such problem with the Man Booker Prizes. In his retirement speech this week, the outgoing chairman of the Man Booker Foundation Jonathan Taylor handed over the reins to Baroness Helena Kennedy. He noted that with Fiammetta Rocco running the Man Booker International prize and Gaby Wood having just taken over the running of the Man Booker itself the prizes are entirely in female hands. Add in Eve Smith (the Foundation’s secretary) Dotti Irving (publicity maestress) and you have what Kennedy likened to a literary girl band.