Indian-origin writer Chetna Maroo on Booker Prize 2023 shortlist

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Six English language novels by authors from the US, Ireland, Kenya and Canada have been shortlisted for the £50,000 Booker Prize



The six books on the shortlist for the 2023 Booker Prize, including Western Lane by Indian-origin writer Chetna Maroo, was announced in London on Thursday. 

None of the six writers have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize before, and only one of them (Paul Murray for The Bee Sting) has been previously longlisted. The other four books on the shortlist are Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein, If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, This Other Eden by Paul Harding and Prophet Song by Paul Lynch. The authors are from the US, Ireland, Kenya and Canada.

The judges said the final six books offer “terrors, pleasures, joys and consolations”, which were picked from a total of 158 works that was then cut to a longlist of 13. The longlist of 13 books was announced on 1 August 2023. The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced at an event at Old Billingsgate, London, on 26 November 2023. The Booker Prize is awarded to a work of long-form fiction, published in the UK and Ireland between 1 October 2022 and 30 September 2023.

This year, the jury comprised novelist Esi Edugyan, twice-shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the chair of panel; actor, writer and director Adjoa Andoh; poet, lecturer, editor and critic Mary Jean Chan; Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and Shakespeare specialist James Shapiro; and actor and writer Robert Webb.

Edugyan said that the novels on the shortlist “offer a full range of human experience” that “transport us not just outside reality but outside the common language of the everyday”.

Maroo’s Western Lane and Escoffery’s If I Survive You are the two debuts on the shortlist. If either of them wins, they will become the sixth debut novelist to win the Booker, after Keri Hulme (The Bone People, 1985), Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things, 1997), DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, 2003), George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo, 2017) and Douglas Stuart (Shuggie Bain, 2020). No debut novels appeared on the shortlist in 2022. While Kenyan-Indian writer Maroo’s Western Lane is about grief and sisterhood as three women comes to terms with the death of their mother, Jamacian American Escoffery’s If I Survive You follows a Jamaican family making a new life in Miami.

All the books on the shortlist feature families in crisis. In Murray’s The Bee Sting, financial problems and dark secrets threaten to shatter an entire family. In Prophet Song, Lynch tackles the struggles of a family are depicted after the father is arrested and imprisoned as Ireland slides into totalitarianism. In This Other Eden, Harding describes the existential crisis a handful of mixed-race families in an isolated island community face when white settlers arrive. In Bernstein’s Study for Obedience, a sister moves in with her ailing brother and becomes a caregiver. 

Last year’s winner was Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka, whose novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida follows a war photographer in what seems to be the afterlife. 

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