As the season changes, leading us into fall, it also leads us into an exciting time in the literary world: the Booker Prize. The shortlist was released earlier this month with some very recognizable names, such as Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie being nominated, as well as some newer names such as Elif Shafak and Bernadine Evaristo.
In the lead up to Salman Rushdie’s September 26th event, we asked him what his thoughts were on his fellow nominees as he makes his way through the Booker shortlist.
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak
In the pulsating moments after she has been murdered and left in a dumpster outside Istanbul, Tequila Leila enters a state of heightened awareness. Her heart has stopped beating but her brain is still active-for 10 minutes 38 seconds. In her death, the secrets and wonders of modern Istanbul come to life and as her epic journey to the afterlife comes to an end, it is her chosen family who brings her story to a buoyant and breathtaking conclusion.
Salman calls Shafak’s novel a “tour de force, a novel about death that is full of life”.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
A magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women.The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives, painting a vivid portrait of the state of post-Brexit Britain, as well as looking back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
Salman describes Evaristo as “an important presence on the British literary scene […] and her voice is always worth hearing.”
An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma
Set on the outskirts of Umuahia, Nigeria and narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit, it tells the story of Chinonso, a young poultry farmer whose soul is ignited when he sees a woman attempting to jump from a highway bridge. Bonded by this night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family and struggles to imagine a future near a chicken coop. Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer’s Odyssey.
Salman describes An Orchestra of Minorities as “exactly like my cup of tea, at once real and mythic.”
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.
Of Atwood’s much anticipated sequel, Salman says that it “needs no help from me. It’s on its way to a Michelle Obama-sized triumph and she deserves all of it.”
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
Baking a multitude of tartes tatins for local restaurants, an Ohio housewife contemplates her four kids, husband, cats and chickens. Also, America’s ignoble past, and her own regrets. But what do you do when you keep stepping on your son’s toy tractors, your life depends on stolen land and broken treaties, and nobody helps you when you get a flat tire on the interstate, not even the Abominable Snowman?
Clocking in at a little over a thousand pages, Salman says that he is definitely “the wrong person to complain about long books.”