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The Booker Prize shortlist includes four debut novels and zero novels by Hilary Mantel.

Emily Temple

September 15, 2020, 8:57am

From a longlist dominated by debuts comes a shortlist dominated by debuts—four out of six!—but the biggest surprise might be the fact that Hilary Mantel will not, after all, be getting that three-peat. Less surprising is the fact that after a single year off, the Americans are back. This year’s Booker Prize shortlist is:

Diane Cook, The New Wilderness (US)

Tsitsi Dangarembga, This Mournable Body (Zimbabwe)

Avni Doshi, Burnt Sugar (US)

Maaza Mengiste, The Shadow King (Ethiopia-US)

Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain (Scotland-US)

Brandon Taylor, Real Life (US)

The shortlist was selected by a panel of five judges: Margaret Busby (chair), editor, literary critic and former publisher; Lee Child, author; Sameer Rahim, author and critic; Lemn Sissay, writer and broadcaster; and Emily Wilson, classicist and translator.

In a press release, Margaret Busby said:

As judges we read 162 books, many of them conveying important, sometimes uncannily similar and prescient messages. The best novels often prepare our societies for valuable conversations, and not just about the inequities and dilemmas of the world—whether in connection with climate change, forgotten communities, old age, racism, or revolution when necessary—but also about how magnificent the interior life of the mind, imagination and spirit is, in spite of circumstance. The shortlist of six came together unexpectedly, voices and characters resonating with us all even when very different. We are delighted to help disseminate these chronicles of creative humanity to a global audience.

The novels on this year’s shortlist range in setting from an unusual child growing up in working-class Glasgow in the 1980s, to a woman coping with a post-colonial nightmare in Zimbabwe. Along the way we meet a man struggling with racism on a university campus, join a trek in the wilderness after an environmental disaster, eavesdrop on a woman coping with her ageing mother as they travel across India and in an exploration of female power discover how ordinary people rose up in 1930s Ethiopia to defend their country against invading Italians. It’s a wondrous and enriching variety of stories, and hugely exciting as well.

The winner of the 2020 Booker Prize, which comes with a £50,000 purse, will be announced on November 17.

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