Debut British novelist on Man Booker shortlist

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The Man Booker shortlist has been announced – with a debut novel by a British writer making the cut.

Heavyweight Arundhati Roy’s second novel The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness – her first in 20 years – has not been shortlisted while British literary star Zadie Smith’s Swing Time has also been dropped after making the longlist earlier this year.

But the six-strong shortlist includes 29-year-old Fiona Mozley’s Elmet, described as a “forceful first novel… timeless in its epic mixture of violence and love”.

Seen through the eyes of a child, it  is the story of a moody, philosophical bare-knuckle fighter who brings up his children “in defiance of social norms”.

Scottish author Ali Smith’s novel Autumn, a book “in part about Brexit”, is also on the shortlist.

Part of a quartet of books, it is the story of a dying man “whose country seems to have changed after the Brexit vote”.

Judges said that it “deftly questions what it means to be displaced in one’s own country” and is a “eulogy for lost time”.

Half the authors on the shortlist – including the bookies’ favourite to win, George Saunders for Lincoln In The Bardo – are US authors.

Lincoln In The Bardo is about a single night in the life of Abraham Lincoln, when he lays to rest his son in a cemetery.

Judges dismissed controversy over the number of US names on the list, saying that the shortlist – recently opened up to US writers – was “not about the nationality of the authors” but “what is the best book”.

The other two US authors are Paul Auster for 4321, set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and civil rights movement, and Emily Fridlund for History Of Wolves, which explores “the effects of neglectful parenting” and the repercussions of childhood isolation and loneliness.

British-Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid completes the shortlist for Exit West, about the movement of large numbers of people across the globe in search of freedom.

The winner of the shortlist, which features three men and three women, will be announced on October 17.

The shortlist:

Paul Auster, 4321
Emily Fridlund, History Of Wolves
Mohsin Hamid, Exit West
Fiona Mozley, Elmet
George Saunders, Lincoln In The Bardo
Ali Smith, Autumn

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