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Oldest author in contention as UK’s Booker prize returns in full

Britain’s Booker Prize for fiction on Monday holds its first large-scale awards ceremony since 2019 with six novels in the running — including the oldest author yet nominated, and the shortest book.

Queen Consort Camilla will award the coveted prize at the televised ceremony, in one of her highest-profile appearances since her husband King Charles III ascended the throne last month.

The evening event will also feature a speech by singer-songwriter Dua Lipa, as it resumes in front of a full in-person audience following the Covid pandemic.

All but one of the six shortlisted authors is due to attend in person. Englishman Alan Garner, who turns 88 on Monday, is expected to appear virtually.

Garner, who made his name with children’s fantasy titles and folk retellings, is shortlisted for “Treacle Walker”, which is the shortest finalist novel by word count.

“They’re not easy books, even though they may be short,” Neil MacGregor, chair of the 2022 judges, said of the final six.

“But, like many great pleasures, some require hard work, and we found them well worth the effort,” he said.

The shortlist sees an equal split of men and women battling for the £50,000 ($56,000) prize, which can provide a career-changing boost in sales and public profile.

NoViolet Bulawayo made it for the second time, for “Glory”, an animal fable set in her native Zimbabwe, while Sri Lanka’s Shehan Karunatilaka was the only other writer not from the British Isles or United States, for “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida”. 

American Percival Everett was included for “Trees”, earning independent publisher Influx Press its first Booker shortlist place.

Fellow US writer Elizabeth Strout featured for “Oh William!” while Irish author Claire Keegan’s “Small Things Like These” completes the shortlist.

At 116 pages, Keegan’s is the shortest finalist by the number of pages in the prize’s 53-year history.

The Booker is Britain’s foremost literary award for novels written in English. Its previous recipients include Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel.

Monday’s ceremony is to feature a special tribute to Mantel, who died last month aged 70.

She was the first British writer, and first woman, to win the prize twice with the first two novels in her “Wolf Hall” trilogy.

British-Turkish author Elif Shafak will meanwhile discuss the implications for writers worldwide after Rushdie was stabbed on-stage during a US appearance in August.

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