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The longlist and the national anthems

The longlist and the national anthems

Every year, one of the first reactions around the world to the announcement of the Man Booker Prize longlist is old-fashioned patriotism. A scan of the names is instantly followed by a tally of the writers' nationalities. In the case of authors with dual nationalities, such as Kamila Shamsie and Mohsin Hamid – both of whom are Anglo-Pakistanis – there is the edifying sight of each country claiming them as one of their own. It is the literary equivalent of a South African cricketer with an English grandmother being selected to play for England at Lords. Indeed Shamsie was forced to clarify on her Twitter account that she and Hamid have dual-nationality. Clairvoyant award of the week goes to a Pakistani critic called Hurmat Kazmi who, writing in The Express Tribune, predicted both Shamsie and Hamid's longlisting.

So while Pakistani media outlets have focused on the inclusion of their halves of Shamsie and Hamid, Indian ones have concentrated on the selection of Arundhati Roy, Irish ones on Sebastian Barry and Mike McCormack and so on. That the pride is felt at a local as well as a national level is evidenced by a headline on Ireland's Midwest Radio 96.1FM announcing “Louisburgh Native Longlisted for Man Booker Prize” (that's Mike McCormack).

Elsewhere the hunt has been on to dig out the unusual or quirky from the list. So Fiona Mozley's inclusion was announced in the Daily Mail under the banner: “What a story! Debut novel by bookshop worker, 29, is long-listed for the Man Booker Prize”. The paper was particularly delighted with the news that Mozley was due in at work at the Little Apple Bookshop in York on the day of the announcement. The same paper also flagged that “A novel written in a single sentence is favourite to win the Man Booker Prize.” Readers were informed that “Despite being 224 pages long, Solar Bones by Irish author Mike McCormack does not have full stops.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular story emerging from the list is the inclusion of Arundhati Roy a tidy 20 years since she won the prize with The God of Small Things. A writer in the TLS, however, astutely picked up that George Saunders, Colson Whitehead and Sebastian Barry have all written books set in the American Civil War period and posited that this would seem, somehow, to relate to the febrile atmosphere of Trump's modern America.

One writer whose inclusion seems to have surprised no one is Colson Whitehead with The Underground Railroad. The book has already scooped the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize in America and only this week added the Arthur C. Clarke gong to its honours. The award is for science fiction and the prize money – £2,017 – is adjusted annually to match the year. So although Whitehead is nominally better off than last year's winner the rise is unfortunately below the rate of inflation, so in reality he's losing out. Still, it's not about the money.