Esi Edugyan, Michael Ondaatje longlisted for 2018 Man Booker Prize

The two Canadian writers are on a longlist of 13 international titles. The shortlist for the £50,000 prize will be announced on Sept. 20, 2018.
Canadians Esi Edugyan and Michael Ondaatje are among 13 writers nominated for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. (CBC)

Canadians Esi Edugyan and Michael Ondaatje have been longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize for their novels Washington Black and Warlightrespectively. 

The prestigious British literary prize announced its longlist of 13 titles, which includes a graphic novel for the first time. The £50,000 award (approx. $86,990 Cdn) is given to any work of fiction written in English. 

Edugyan's Washington Black, which will be released in Canada in September 2018, tells the story of an 11-year-old slave on a Barbados sugar plantation. Washington Black's master is Englishman Christopher Wilde, who is obsessed with developing a machine that can fly. The two develop a bond, but when a man is killed, Wilde must choose between his family and saving Washington Black's life — and the choice results in an unforgettable adventure around the world. Read an excerpt exclusively on CBC Books.

"A dazzling exploration of race in the Atlantic world, which also manages to be a yarn and a chase story. A book of extraordinary political and racial scope, Washington Black is wonderfully written, extremely imaginative, profoundly engaging and filled with an empathetic understanding of characters who are uprooted from places they knew and required to make adjustments in worlds they could barely have dreamt of. It manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, while making you, as a reader, want to savour every moment," said the judges in a press release.

Edugyan was previously shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 for her novel Half-Blood Blues. The novel went on to win the Scotiabank Giller Prize that year, and become a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction (now the Women's Prize for Fiction), the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Ondaatje's Warlight is the lushly told story of a young man trying to understand his strange childhood. In the days following the Second World War, Nathaniel and his sister are abandoned by their parents in their London home and left in the care of two devoted men.

"Wonderfully atmospheric, beautifully paced, subtle storytelling. Warlight contains an incredible array of characters through whom Ondaatje tells the hidden, barely spoken, tale of war, especially as it impacts on children. Ondaatje skilfully moves back and forth through time, finally offering an extraordinary narrative twist that feels as earned as it is unexpected," said the judges.

Ondaatje is no stranger to Man Booker Prize success. His novel The English Patient was recently crowned the Golden Man Booker winner. The special one-off competition was designed to mark the 50th anniversary for the British literary prize. It placed the Man Booker Prize's previous 51 winners in a head-to-head battle to determine which has stood the test of time. The English Patient won the Booker in 1992, when it tied with Barry Unsworth's Sacred Hunger for the prize.

Sabrina by American Nick Drnaso is the first graphic novel to ever be longlisted for the prize. The book explores what happens when the disappearance of a woman hits the daily news cycle. The judges said the book, "makes demands on the reader in precisely the way all good fiction does."

The other books on the longlist include:

  • Snap by Belinda Bauer (U.K.)
  • Milkman by Anna Burns (U.K.) 
  • In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne (U.K.)
  • Everything Under by Daisy Johnson (U.K.)
  • The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (U.S.)
  • The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (U.K.)
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers (U.S.)
  • The Long Take by Robin Robertson (U.K.)
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney (Ireland)
  • From A Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan (Ireland)

This year's jury includes philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, crime writer Val McDermid, cultural critic Leo Robson, feminist writer and critic Jacqueline Rose and artist Leanne Shapton. The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 20, 2018 and the winner will be revealed on Oct. 16, 2018.


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