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A little bit of history

A little bit of history

Coventry’s year as City of Culture has got off to a turbocharged start. Later this year the Midlands metropolis will be the first city outside London to host a Booker Prize winner reveal and this is perhaps one of the reasons why so many Coventrarians have signed up as volunteers to help visitors navigate the city’s events and delights. The City Hosts Programme is looking for a total of 5,000 volunteers to oil the wheels of its 2021 cultural offerings and within 24 hours of the call going out, 1,500 people had already signed up. Of course, they are not all there because of the Booker Prize but who wouldn’t want to be part of making history?

Douglas Stuart, the reigning Booker Prize champ, has just been nominated for a “Lammy”, one of the Lambda awards, which were established in 1989 to celebrate LGBTQ fiction. Shuggie Bain will not, however, be the only class-of-2020 Booker Prize novel in the mix. Stuart has been included in the gay fiction category, where he is up against a familiar (friendly) competitor in Brandon Taylor (Real Life), while another 2020 shortlistee, C Pam Zhang (How Much of These Hills Is Gold) is in the running in the bisexual fiction category. The winners will be revealed in a virtual ceremony on 1 June.

Also on the prize trail, of a slightly more high-vis kind, is Aravind Adiga’s Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger. The film adaptation, which has had almost universally positive reviews, is now up for an Oscar in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Oscar success is nothing new for the Booker Prize – think Schindler’s List, The Remains of the Day, The English Patient – so fingers crossed that Adiga’s winner joins them on 25 April.

Kazuo Ishiguro, a Booker Prize winner long, long before the Nobel Prize committee rewarded his merits, is familiar with the movie business. The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go were both hugely successful and lauded films, and now his latest novel, Klara and the Sun, is also being adapted for the screen. The team behind the film is nevertheless somewhat surprising: the writing will be in the hands of Dahvi Waller, the woman behind the scripts for Mad Men, while the producer will be David Heyman, the man responsible for the Harry Potter and Paddington films. Though quite where Ishiguro’s cerebral tale of an artificial AI friend sits on the New York advertising and wizardry-and-puppetry axis is hard to imagine.

Sir Kaz is one of those rare authors other big name writers revere without reservation. The publication of Klara and the Sun was the occasion for some stellar novelists – a couple of Booker Prize alumni among them – to look back at his oeuvre and pick their favourite book. Margaret Atwood, for example, chose Never Let Me Go: “The people in Never Let Me Go aren’t heroic; the ending is not comforting”, she said. “Nevertheless, this is a brilliantly executed book by a master craftsman who has chosen a difficult subject: ourselves, seen through a glass, darkly.” Madeleine Thien, Booker Prize shortlisted in 2016, went for When We Were Orphans: “I was 26 when I first read it, and I remember closing the book and thinking: What in hell have I just read?” Meanwhile Ian Rankin plumped for The Buried Giant, Sarah Perry for The Remains of the Day and Rumaan Alam for The Unconsoled. All in all, not a bad fanbase.