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African Authors Squeezed Out as Man Booker Prize Opens to American Authors

After the announcement of the 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist this afternoon, Books LIVE looks back at all the longlists to see how unusual it is for there to be a complete absence of African writers.

To Rise Again at a Decent HourThe Narrow Road to the Deep NorthWe Are All Completely Beside OurselvesBlazing WorldJThe WakeThe Bone ClocksLives of OthersUsThe DogOrfeoHow to be BothHistory of the Rain

Traditionally, the Man Booker Prize was open to authors from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Commonwealth, and Zimbabwe. However, in September last year it was announced that this year the prize would be open to American writers for the first time, causing many literary commentators to predict disaster. But were the doomsayers proved correct by today’s longlist announcement? Unfortunately it seems so.

Books LIVE has looked back through the years and compiled a comprehensive list of all Man Booker longlists since the list was made public for the first time, in 2001, and some fascinating patterns emerge.

There are no African authors on the longlist this year, something that has happened only four times before, in 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2011; four times in 14 editions of the prize. Many news sites have already registered surprise at the exclusion of Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer, which has been widely touted as an award candidate this year.

But perhaps more concerning is the dearth of talent from the Commonwealth on this year’s longlist. Before today, the lowest number of Commonwealth writers on the longlist was two, in 2009, when local lad JM Coetzee was longlisted for Summertime and the Canadian Ed O’Loughlin for Not Untrue & Not Unkind. Usually the number of Commonwealth authors hovers around the four/five mark. This year, however, just one makes the list, the Australian Richard Flanagan.

Instead, we see four American authors on the list: Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Siri Hustvedt and Richard Powers. Some are calling it five, as Joseph O’Neill has lived in New York since 1988.

Of course, it is too soon to judge whether the change in Man Booker Prize rules means the end of a Commonwealth contribution; 2014′s longlist may turn out to be a statistical anomaly. As the prize’s literary director Ion Trewin told The Guardian: “I just don’t think it is necessarily one of the great years for the Commonwealth.”

Share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Books LIVE’s Facebook or Twitter.


Bold: Commonwealth author
Underlined: African author
*: Winner

Only since 2012 were the longlisted authors’ nationalities officially announced. Books LIVE has allocated nationalities – an occasionally challenging task – for the previous lists.

Man Booker 2014 Longlist (no African authors, 1 of 13 from the Commonwealth, 4 from the US)

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (US)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Australia)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (US)
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (US)
J by Howard Jacobson (Britain)
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (Britain)
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Britain)
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee (Britain)
Us by David Nicholls (Britain)
The Dog by Joseph O’Neill (Ireland)
Orfeo by Richard Powers (US)
How to Be Both by Ali Smith (Britain)
History of the Rain by Niall Williams (Ireland)
Man Booker 2013 Longlist (1 African author, 4 of 13 from the Commonwealth)

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw (Malaysia)
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Zimbabwe)
* The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (New Zealand)

Harvest by Jim Crace (Britain)
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris (Britain)
The Kills by Richard House (Britain)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Britain/United States)
Unexploded by Alison MacLeod (Britain)
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (Ireland)
Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson (Britain)
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Canada/United States)
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan (Ireland)
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (Ireland)
Man Booker 2012 Longlist (1 African author, 3 of 12 from the Commonwealth)

The Yips by Nicola Barker (Britain)
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (Britain)
Philida by Andre Brink (South Africa)
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysia)

Skios by Michael Frayn (Britain)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Britain)
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (Britain)
* Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Britain)
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (Britain)
Umbrella by Will Self (Britain)
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (India)
Communion Town by Sam Thompson (Britain)
Man Booker 2011 Longlist (no African authors, 3 of 13 from the Commonwealth)

* The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Britain)
On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry (Ireland)
Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch (Britain)
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (Canada)
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Canada)

A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvette Edwards (Britain)
The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst (Britain)
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman (Britain)
The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness (Britain/born in Tunisia)
Snowdrops by AD Miller (Britain)
Far to Go by Alison Pick (Canada)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (Britain)
Derby Day by DJ Taylor (Britain)
Man Booker 2010 Longlist (1 African author, 4 of 13 from the Commonwealth)

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey (Australia)
Room by Emma Donoghue (Ireland)
The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore (Britain)
In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (South Africa)
* The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (Britain)
The Long Song by Andrea Levy (Britain)
C by Tom McCarthy (Britain)
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (Britain)
February by Lisa Moore (Canada)
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (Ireland)
Trespass by Rose Tremain (Britain)
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (Australia)
The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner (Britain)
Man Booker 2009 Longlist (1 African author, 2 of 13 from the Commonwealth)

The Children’s Book by AS Byatt (Britain)
Summertime by JM Coetzee (South Africa)
The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds (Britain)
How to paint a dead man by Sarah Hall (Britain)
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey (Britain)
Me Cheeta by James Lever (Britain)
* Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Britain)
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer (Britain)
Not Untrue & Not Unkind by Ed O’Loughlin (Canada)
Heliopolis by James Scudamore (Britain)
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (Ireland)
Love and Summer by William Trevor (Ireland)
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Britain)
Man Booker 2008 Longlist (no African authors, 5 of 13 from the Commonwealth)

* The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (India/Australia)
Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold (Britain)
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (Ireland)
From A to X by John Berger (Britain)
The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser (Sri Lanka/Australia)
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (India)

The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant (Britain)
A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif (Pakistan)
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher (Britain)
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill (Britain)
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie (India/Britain)
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Britain)
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (Australia)
Man Booker 2007 Longlist (no African authors, 3 of 13 from the Commonwealth)

Darkmans by Nicola Barker (Britain)
Self Help by Edward Docx (Britain)
The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysia)
* The Gathering by Anne Enright (Ireland)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan)
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies (Britain)
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (New Zealand)
Gifted by Nikita Lalwani (India/Britain)
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Britain)
What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn (Britain)
Consolation by Michael Redhill (Britain)
Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (Britain/India)
Winnie & Wolf by AN Wilson (Britain)
Man Booker 2006 Longlist (1 African author, 6 of 19 from the Commonwealth)

Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey (Australia)
* The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (India)

Gathering the Water by Robert Edric (Britain)
Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer (Britain)
The Secret River by Kate Grenville (Australia)
Carry Me Down by MJ Hyland (Britain)
Kalooki Nights by Howard Jacobson (Britain)
Seven Lies by James Lasdun (Britain)
The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson (Canada)
So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor (Britain)
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar (Libya)
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud (Canada/America)

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (Britain)
The Perfect Man by Naeem Murr (Britain)
Be Near Me by Andrew O’Hagan (Britain)
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson (Britain)
Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn (Britain)
The Ruby in Her Navel by Barry Unsworth (Britain)
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (Britain)
Man Booker 2005 Longlist (2 African authors, 6 of 17 from the Commonwealth)

The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw (Malaysia)
* The Sea by John Banville (Ireland)

Arthur & George by Julian Barnes (Britain)
A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry (Ireland)
Slow Man by JM Coetzee (South Africa)
In the Fold by Rachel Cusk (Canada)

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Britain)
All For Love by Dan Jacobson (South Africa)
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka (Britain)
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (Britain)
Saturday by Ian McEwan (Britain)
The People’s Act of Love by James Meek (Britain)
Shalimar The Clown by Salman Rushdie (India/Britain)
The Accidental by Ali Smith (Britain)
On Beauty by Zadie Smith (Britain)
This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson (Britain)
This Is The Country by William Wall (Britain)
Man Booker 2004 Longlist (2 African authors, 8 of 22 from the Commonwealth)

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam (Britain/Pakistan)

Clear: A Transparent Novel by Nicola Barker (Britain)
The Island Walkers by John Bemrose (Canada)
Havoc, in its Third Year by Ronan Bennett (Canada)

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Britain)
Always the Sun by Neil Cross (Britain)
Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor (South Africa)
Becoming Strangers by Louise Dean (Britain)
A Blade of Grass by Lewis Desoto (Canada/born in South Africa)
The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall (Britain)
Cooking with Fernet Branca by James HamiltonbyPaterson (Britain)
The Honeymoon by Justin Haythe (America/born in Britain)
The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard (Australia)
* The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (Britain)
Sixty Lights by Gail Jones (Australia)
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Britain)
The Unnumbered by Sam North (Britain)
Snowleg by Nicholas Shakespeare (Britain)
Cherry by Matt Thorne (Britain)
The Master by Colm Tóibín (Ireland)
I’ll go to Bed at Noon by Gerard Woodward (Britain)
Man Booker 2003 Longlist (2 African authors, 5 of 23 from the Commonwealth)

Brick Lane by Monica Ali (Britain)
Yellow Dog by Martin Amis (Britain)
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (Canada)
Turn Again Home by Carol Birch (Britain)
Crossing the Lines by Melvyn Bragg (Britain)
Elizabeth Costello by JM Coetzee (South Africa)
The Taxi Driver’s Daughter by Julia Darling (Britain)
Schopenhauer’s Telescope by Gerard Donovan (Ireland)
The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut (South Africa)
The Romantic by Barbara Gowdy (Canada)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (Britain)
Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller (Britain)
The Nick of Time by Francis King (Britain)
Heligoland by Shena Mackay (Britain)
Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall (Britain)
Jazz Etc by John Murray (Britain)
Something Might Happen by Julie Myerson (Britain)
Judge Savage by Tim Parks (Britain)
A Distant Shore by Caryl Phillips (Britain)
* Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre (Australia)
Waxwings by Jonathan Raban (Britain)
The Light of Day by Graham Swift (Britain)
Frankie & Stankie by Barbara Trapido (Britain/born in South Africa)
Man Booker 2002 Longlist (no African authors, 5 of 19 from the Commonwealth)

The Strange Case of Dr Simmonds and Dr Glass by Dannie Abse (Britain)
Shroud by John Banville (Ireland)
Critical Injuries by Joan Barfoot (Canada)
Any Human Heart by William Boyd (Britain)
The Next Big Thing by Anita Brookner (Britain)
Peacetime by Robert Edric (Britain)
Spies by Michael Frayn (Britain)
Still Here by Linda Grant (Britain)
The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher (Britain)
* Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Canada)
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor (Britain)
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry (Canada/India)
Dorian by Will Self (Britain)
Unless by Carol Shields (Canada)
The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith (Britain)
To the Last City by Colin Thubron (Britain)
The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor (Ireland)
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (Britain)
Dirt Music by Tim Winton (Australia)

Man Booker 2001 Longlist (2 African authors, 9 of 24 from the Commonwealth)

According to Queeney by Beryl Bainbridge (Britain)
If the Invader Comes by Derek Beaven (Britain)
A Son of War by Melvyn Bragg (Britain)
* True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (Australia)
Shamrock Tea by Ciaran Carson (Australia)
The Element of Water by Stevie Davies (Britain)
The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)
Dogside Story by Patricia Grace (New Zealand)
By the Sea by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Tanzania)
How to be Good by Nick Hornby (Britain)
Wolfy and the Strudelbakers by Zvi Jagendorf (Israel/Austria)
Translated Accounts by James Kelman (Britain)
An Atonement by Ian McEwan (Britain)
The Blue Tango by Eoin McNamee (Britain)
Oxygen by Andrew Miller (Britain)
Number 9 Dream by David Mitchell (Britain)
Fairness by Ferdinand Mount (Britain)
Half a Life by VS Naipaul (Britain/Trinidad)
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (Britain)
The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert (Britain)
Hotel World by Ali Smith (Britain)
The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri (India/America)
The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart (Canada)
The Leto Bundle by Marina Warner (Britain)

Book details


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    July 24th, 2014 @00:35 #

    Humph and harrumph. Thanks very much for crunching the numbers, Jennifer. It's tempting to claim Tan Twan Eng (2012 and 2007) as an adopted African writer. Plus: I don't get why books that haven't yet been published are on the list.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    July 24th, 2014 @08:10 #

    No African authors - I'm embarrassed for the prize. And in particular no Damon Galgut, whose Arctic Summer I thought would take the gong. Helluva book, that.

    Helen, judges are allowed to ask for unpublished books in advance; if they like 'em, the books can go into the mix.

  • Jennifer
    July 24th, 2014 @09:05 #

    I don't think judges should be allowed to ask for advance copies. No wonder we keep seeing the same damn names over and over.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    July 24th, 2014 @12:57 #

    I'm with Jennifer. AND with Ben on Arctic Summer: I was quietly confident that this time... but no. A most puzzling omission.


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