Two Irish novels are on this year’s Booker Prize longlist, which has just been announced. Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan – at 116 pages, the shortest recognized book in the history of the prize – and The Colony by Audrey Magee, both published by Faber, join 11 other books in the running for the prestigious literary prize , most of them from independent publishers. .
Three debut novelists, Maddie Mortimer, Leila Mottley and Selby Wynn Schwartz, are joined in the lineup by previously shortlisted trio of NoViolet Bulawayo, Karen Joy Fowler and Graeme Macrae Burnet, and previously shortlisted Elizabeth Strout. The youngest and oldest authors ever selected also feature this year: Leila Mottley, 20, and octogenarian Alan Garner, who will be 88 on the day the 2022 winner is announced.
The shortlist of six will be announced on September 6, with each author receiving £2,500 and a hardcover edition of their book. The winner, who will receive £50,000, plus the expectation of international recognition and a dramatic increase in global book sales, will be announced on October 17 in London, at the first in-person awards ceremony since 2019.
“The list offers stories, fables and parables, fantasy, mystery, meditation and thriller,” says Neil MacGregor, cultural historian, writer and broadcaster who chairs the judging panel. The other judges are academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari, historian Helen Castor, novelist and critic M John Harrison, and novelist, poet and professor Alain Mabanckou. They selected the long list from 169 novels submitted by their publishers, which were to be written in English and published in Ireland or Britain between October 2021 and September 2022.
MacGregor says the 13 “challenging, challenging, surprising, nourishing” books “reflect — and mirror — our planet’s concerns” in recent years: “how we imagine disease as a living enemy to be fought on a daily basis, questions of the ‘racial and gender injustice, and the fragility of the political order’. Two broader, and no less topical, themes also emerged in the long list, he says: “the extent to which individual lives are shaped and determined by long historical processes. If Tolstoy and Jane Austen can stand as opposite poles in the novel, then it seems that in 2022 Tolstoy is in the ascendant. Whether in Sri Lanka or Ireland, the United States or Zimbabwe, long histories of conflict and injustice are major conspiratorial dynamics.
The judges describe Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These as a story of “quiet bravery, set in an Irish community in denial of its central secret”, with “beautiful, clear, economical writing and an elegant structure dense with moral themes “. Writing in the Irish Times review, Sarah Gilmartin said it “brings a new and sensitive perspective to a terrible time in our collective history. Detailed, insightful and written with remarkable economy of language, it brings the reader remarkably closer to experiencing the character.
From Co Wicklow, Keegan has won numerous awards and been translated into over 20 languages. Antarctica, his acclaimed first volume of short stories, was published in 1999, followed by Walk the Blue Fields (2007) and his “long story” Foster, which won the 2009 Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award, is now a Leaving Cert text, and was adapted for film as Famous An Cailín Ciúin in May 2022. She holds the Briena Staunton Guest Writer Fellowship at Pembroke College, Cambridge.
The Colony is Audrey Magee’s second novel, a lyrical and dark fable in which two strangers visit a small island off the west coast, with unintended and haunting consequences. Journalist for 12 years, notably for The Irish Times, she lives and works in Wicklow. Her first novel, The Undertaking, was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, France’s Prix du Premier Roman and the Irish Book Awards, and was nominated for the Dublin Literary Award and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. It has been translated into 10 languages and is being adapted for cinema. The judges observe of The Colony: “The summer of 1979. Sectarian murders claim victims all over Ireland. An idyllic island fishing community off the west coast becomes the laboratory in which Magee dissects the chasm between what Ireland is and how the rest of the world wants to fantasize about it.
In The Colony’s Irish Times review, Gilmartin praised it as “full of learning, penal laws, which have contributed enormously to the decline of the Irish language, to the rapid and brutal acceleration of violence on both sides in The Troubles” and for its details of island life and “subtle insights” that “keep the novel dynamic and befitting the sober, understated style of Magee’s prose”.
First awarded in 1969, the Booker is considered the premier prize for literary fiction written in English. Past winners include Iris Murdoch, Salman Rushdie, VS Naipaul and Hilary Mantel. The 2021 award went to Damon Galgut for The Promise, which sold 1,925% more copies in the UK in the fortnight after winning than in the previous two weeks.
Booker Prize 2022: The Long List
NoViolet Bulawayo — Glory (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, Penguin Random House)
Hernan Diaz — Trust (Picador, Pan Macmillan)
Percival Everett — Trees (influx press)
Karen Joy Fowler — Stand (Snake Tail, Profile Books)
Alan Garner — Molasses walker (4th Estate, HarperCollins)
Shehan Karunatilaka — The seven moons of Maali Almeida (sort of books)
Claire Kegan — Little things like these (Fabric)
Graeme Macrae Burnet — Case study (Saraband)
Audrey Magee — The colony (Fabric)
Maddie Mortimer — Maps of our Spectacular Bodies (Picador, Pan Macmillan)
Leila Mottley — Crawl (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
Selby Wynn Schwartz — After Sappho (Galley Beggar Press)
Elizabeth Strout — Oh William! (Viking, Penguin General, Penguin Random House)