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One day to go

One day to go

Only one day to go before the winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize is revealed but there are still echoes of the judges' words at the time of the shortlist reveal. Then, the chair of judges, Kwame Anthony Appiah, suggested that too many of the 171 books that had been submitted for the prize were overlong and badly in need of a vigorous pruning. Another of the judges, Val McDermid agreed: “I think,” she said, “young editors coming through are not necessarily getting the kind of training and experience-building apprenticeship that happened when I was starting out.” The criticism clearly rankled with one editor, Sam Jordison of the Galley Beggar Press, who has pointed out, with some justice, that it is the authors who take the credit when a book wins plaudits and prizes and therefore they should take the blame too when criticism is being dished out. “A title belongs to an author, first and last,” says Jordison. “We at the publishing end are there to make suggestions, not to implement changes with an iron rod. If an author is determined to save a few darlings that we want to slaughter, it’s their call. We can’t force a writer to do anything. Nor should we try.”


One of this year's shortlistees, Daisy Johnson, has been regularly touted as the youngest Man Booker shortlistee ever. Her tender years (she's 27) have come as a surprise to many people but not, obviously, to her: “I am young but I have been writing since before I knew what a writer was”, she said in a recent interview. She also stressed the obsessional nature of her trade and how she grapples with self-doubt and catches herself refining sentences in the middle of the night. But then, when things click, she can find herself: “grinning uncontrollably at all times of the day, dancing around my kitchen”.


The London Evening Standard recently published “The Progress 1,000”, a list of the city's most influential figures. Needless to say, a good dollop of Man Booker alumni were to be found in the “storytellers” section. Kamila Shamsie, Rachel Cusk, Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan, Guy Gunaratne, Sally Rooney, Edward St Aubyn, and Kazuo Ishiguro are all selected. How though Rooney counts as a Londoner is unclear since she lives in Dublin, but then Karl Ove Knausgaard is on the list too and he lives in Norway.


The longlist for the 2018 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation has just been announced. The £1,000 award was launched last year to “address the gender imbalance” in translated literature and to increase the number of international women’s voices accessible by a British and Irish readership. The Man Booker International Prize is clearly ahead of the game since two of the last three winners were written by women and all three were translated by women: Deborah Smith for Han Kang's The Vegetarian, Jessica Cohen for David Grossman's A Horse Walks into a Bar, and Jennifer Croft for Olga Tokarczuk's Flights. Croft and Smith both appear on the longlist, as does the honorary female Frank Wynne for his translation of the last year's MBI shortlisted Vernon Subutex One by Virginie Despentes.


Time is running out to have a flutter on the prize but if you have a fiver in your pocket just aching to be spent, the odds (courtesy of William Hill) are as follows: Richard Powers is favourite at 11/4, Daisy Johnson comes next at 10/3, then Robin Robertson (7/2), Esi Edugyan (9/2), Anna Burns (11/2) and Rachel Kushner (7/1).