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Page after page of heroes

Page after page of heroes

The announcement of the winner of the Man Booker International Prize is almost upon us (Tuesday 19th May). There is still time though to catch several of the writers before the announcement. They will feature at a Guardian Live event at The British Library on Sunday 17th and at Birkbeck College, University of London, on the 18th for an event with English PEN about literature in translation. Given what some of the 10 contenders let slip about their literary heroes recently the discussions should be lively. Alain Mabanckou (Republic of Congo) confessed that he looks up to the curious triumvirate of Robin Hood, Saint-Éxupery’s Little Prince, and Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean from Les Misérables. Hoda Barakat (Lebanon) plumped for a pair who both met sticky ends – Macbeth and Goethe's Werther. Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe) meanwhile went for a couple of tragic figures – Heathcliff and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. A psychologist would have a field day . . .

Neil Mukherjee, Man Booker shortlisted last year for The Lives of Others, set during turbulent decades of Indian history, has just picked up the Encore Award, worth £10,000, given to a second novel. The chair of judges was Alex Clark (a Man Booker judge in 2008), who praised the book's ‘ambition and depth’, while Mukherjee himself, typically gracefully, described the prize as ‘a burst of light in what is usually considered to be dark, damp, bleak territory – the dreaded second novel’. The award and the Man Booker have close links: previous winners include Adam Foulds (Man Booker shortlisted in 2009), Ali Smith (shortlisted in 2001, 2005 and 2014) and Anne Enright (winner 2007).

Another gong with Man Booker ties is the Guardian First Book Award, for which entries are now open. The prize is for non-fiction as well as fiction but among those who have gone on to Man Booker prominence are David Mitchell, Zadie Smith, Rachel Seiffert, DBC Pierre, Robert Macfarlane, Hisham Matar, Donal Ryan and Eleanor Catton – a roster that includes two winners and one chair of judges. 

No chance of the actor Jim Broadbent complaining that life is dull. He is currently working on a television mini-series of War and Peace but it has just been announced that he has been cast as Tony Webster, the central character in Julian Barnes's 2011 Man Booker winning The Sense of an Ending. Rarely can the switch from maximalist to minimalist have been greater. The BBC adaptation will be directed by Ritesh Batra, who has only one film – The Lunchbox – to his name. The project is not, however, Broadbent's first brush with the Man Booker. In 2002 he won an Oscar for his role as John Bayley in Iris, a film based on the life of the 1978 Booker winner Iris Murdoch. Professor Bayley was himself a notably scatty chair of the judges in 1994