by NoViolet Bulawayo
The longlist for the Booker Prize 2022 – the leading literary award in the English speaking world – is announced today, Tuesday 26 July 2022.
The 13 books on this year’s longlist – the ‘Booker dozen’ – were chosen by the 2022 judging panel: cultural historian, writer and broadcaster Neil MacGregor (chair); academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari; historian Helen Castor; novelist and critic M John Harrison; and novelist, poet and professor Alain Mabanckou.
Their selection was made from 169 novels published between 1 October 2021 and 30 September 2022 and submitted to the prize by publishers. Coincidentally, this year’s longlist includes the first and last book the judges read. The Booker Prize is open to works by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.
Glory, NoViolet Bulawayo (Zimbabwean), (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, Penguin Random House)
Trust, Hernan Diaz (American), (Picador, Pan Macmillan)
The Trees, Percival Everett (American), (Influx Press)
Booth, Karen Joy Fowler (American), (Serpent’s Tail, Profile Books)
Treacle Walker, Alan Garner (British), (4th Estate, HarperCollins)
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Shehan Karunatilaka (Sri Lankan), (Sort of Books)
Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan (Irish), (Faber)
Case Study, Graeme Macrae Burnet (British), (Saraband)
The Colony, Audrey Magee (Irish), (Faber)
Maps of our Spectacular Bodies, Maddie Mortimer (British), (Picador, Pan Macmillan)
Nightcrawling, Leila Mottley (American), (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
After Sappho, Selby Wynn Schwartz (American), (Galley Beggar Press)
Oh William!, Elizabeth Strout (American), (Viking, Penguin General, Penguin Random House)
‘Over the last seven months or so, we have read and discussed 169 works of fiction, all written in English, by authors and about subjects from all over the globe. 169 journeys to worlds conjured and created by the wielding of words alone. The skill with which writers shape and sustain those variously imagined worlds, and allow others to inhabit them, has been our main criterion in proposing this longlist of 13 books. Exceptionally well written and carefully crafted, in whatever genre, they seem to us to exploit and expand what the language can do. The list that we have selected offers story, fable and parable, fantasy, mystery, meditation and thriller.
‘All 13 books, of course, reflect — and reflect on — the preoccupations of our planet over the last few years. Unsurprisingly, in the wake of the pandemic, they address how we imagine disease as a living enemy to be fought on a daily basis, questions of racial and gender injustice, and the fragility of the political order. But two larger, and no less topical, themes emerged, both strongly represented in the longlist.
‘The first is the extent to which individual lives are shaped and determined by long historical processes. If Tolstoy and Jane Austen can stand as opposite poles of the novel, then it seems that in 2022, Tolstoy is in the ascendant. Whether in Sri Lanka or Ireland, the United States or Zimbabwe, long histories of conflict and injustice are major dynamics of plot. The second is the elusive nature of truth: not in the sense that we live in a post-truth world, but in demonstrating the persistence, energy and scepticism required to get as near as is possible to truth, and so to a proper understanding, whether of one particular person, or of a nation-destroying civil war. The extent to which we can trust the word, spoken or written, is in many of these books the real subject under examination.
‘The task of whittling 169 down to 13 has been as enjoyable as it has been arduous. We, the five judges, bring such different approaches and experiences to our reading, that left to ourselves, we would probably have produced five very different lists. But we read these books as a group, disagreeing and discussing, comparing, reconsidering and re-reading, and together we reached a striking degree of consensus. These are thirteen books — challenging, stimulating, surprising, nourishing — that we recommend for close and enjoyable reading.’
‘The 2022 Booker judges come from very different corners of the reading world, yet from the moment they met they have revelled in each other’s opinions and delighted in each other’s company.
‘The result is a set of books that are sometimes serious but never sombre, whose authors engage you with their wit, even as you absorb their dramatic, painful or provocative subject matter. It’s in this playfulness, of form or tone, that this year’s fiction is at its best.’
Four novelists have been recognised by the prize before: NoViolet Bulawayo (shortlisted in 2013 for her debut novel We Need New Names); Karen Joy Fowler (shortlisted in 2014 for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves); Graeme Macrae Burnet, who was born in Kilmarnock in Scotland and now lives in Glasgow (shortlisted in 2016 for His Bloody Project); and Elizabeth Strout (longlisted in 2016 for My Name Is Lucy Barton).
The list features five men and eight women. Three of the women are debut novelists: 20-year-old Leila Mottley, a former Oakland youth poet laureate; Maddie Mortimer with Maps of our Spectacular Bodies, which just won The Desmond Elliot Prize (for a debut novel); and Selby Wynn Schwartz, who was named a 2020 Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in LGBTQ Non-fiction. By contrast, Percival Everett has published more than 30 books and was awarded the Ivan Sandroff Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Book Critics Circle Awards 2021, and 87-year-old Alan Garner published his first book 62 years ago.
Eight of the longlisted books come from independently-owned publishers: Bloomsbury, Faber, Galley Beggar Press, Influx Press, Profile Books, Saraband and Sort of Books. Faber has won the prize seven times before – the second highest number of wins for any publisher, just behind PRH imprint Jonathan Cape which has won eight times.
The shortlist of six books will be announced on Tuesday 6 September at an evening event at the Serpentine Pavilion in London. The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book.
On Saturday 15 October, just ahead of the winner announcement, the shortlisted authors will be appearing at The Times & The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival. The Booker Prize shortlist event will be chaired by director of the Booker Prize Foundation, Gaby Wood.
The 2022 winner will be announced on Monday 17 October in an award ceremony held at the Roundhouse and fully in person for the first time since 2019. The winner receives £50,000 and can expect international recognition and a dramatic increase in global book sales.
The 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction was won by Damon Galgut with The Promise. In the two weeks after it won the 2021 Booker Prize, Damon Galgut’s The Promise sold 1,925% more copies in the UK than it had in the previous two weeks. According to The Bookseller, in the 12 weeks after his win, Galgut sold more copies of his books that he did in the previous 17 years since first being published in the UK. Rights to The Promise have been sold in 35 territories.
The first public event with the Booker Prize 2022 winner takes place on Thursday 20 October at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of London Literature Festival 2022, alongside 2021 winner Damon Galgut who will hand over the baton.
Glory, NoViolet Bulawayo
‘A fictional country of animals ruled by a tyrannical and absolute power is on the verge of liberation. The fiction becomes almost reality as we picture the parallel between this Animal Farm, Zimbabwe, and the fate of many African nations. An ingenious and brilliant political fable that bears witness to the surreal turns of history.’
Trust, Hernan Diaz
‘There is a dazzling intelligence behind this novel, which challenges us to rethink everything we know both about the institutions on which nations are built and the narratives by which stories are told. Sly, sophisticated, insistently questioning, Diaz writes with assurance, determined to rob us of every certainty.’
The Trees, Percival Everett
‘Eerie, provocative, blackly comic Southern noir. A page-turner with a sharp, provocative edge, as it harks back to the real-life murder of the young Emmett Till, it has important things to say about race.’
Booth, Karen Joy Fowler
‘What shapes us? And who gets to choose the stories we tell about our place in the world? With an eagle eye and a bone-dry wit, Fowler introduces the Booths, a 19th-century family forged by theatrical ambition and agonising grief within a household steeped in the racism and myth-making of the disunited States. As the novel unfolds, we know - and they don’t - that one day the ninth child, John Wilkes, will step forward with a gun in his hand to bring the narratives of dynasty and country decisively together.’
‘Garner bared to the bone in late style. This tiny book compresses all his themes – time, childhood, language, science and landscape entangled – into a single, calmly plaintive cry.’
‘Life after death in Sri Lanka: an afterlife noir, with nods to Dante and Buddha and yet unpretentious. Fizzes with energy, imagery and ideas against a broad, surreal vision of the Sri Lankan civil wars. Slyly, angrily comic.’
‘A story of quiet bravery, set in an Irish community in denial of its central secret. Beautiful, clear, economic writing and an elegant structure dense with moral themes.’
‘A mystery story - or is it? - that takes us into the heart of the psychoanalytical consulting room. Or does it? Interleaving a biography of radical ‘60s ‘untherapist’ Collins Braithwaite with the notebooks of his patient ‘Rebecca’, a young woman seeking answers about the death of her sister, ‘GMB’ presents a forensic, elusive and mordantly funny text(s) layered with questions about authenticity and the self.’
‘The summer of 1979. Sectarian murders claim victims across Ireland. An idyllic island fishing community off the west coast becomes the laboratory in which Magee dissects the gulf between what Ireland is and how the rest of the world wants to fantasise it.’
‘Deliriously inventive and viscerally moving, Mortimer’s debut is a patterned, protean narrative that astonishes and overwhelms. Lia is dying while she’s living, her past, present and future a glorious cacophony of voices, from the webs of words that bind her to her daughter, to the mutating cancer that is an inexorable part of her self.’
‘Nightcrawling is a dazzling and electrifying novel set in the streets of Oakland, where the protagonist Kiara will face a justice system that oppresses young black women. A spellbinding story and a Catcher in the Rye for a new generation.’
‘A poetic patchwork of fragments of literary history that together take shape as an intergenerational tale of the Lesbian family. An ancestry eruditely, playfully recovered.’
‘No-one writes interior life as Strout does. This is meticulous observed writing, full of probing psychological insight. Lucy Barton is one of literature’s immortal characters – brittle, damaged, unravelling, vulnerable and most of all, ordinary, like us all.’
First awarded in 1969, The Booker Prize is recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction written in English. The list of former winners features many of the literary giants of the last five decades: from Iris Murdoch to Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul to Hilary Mantel.
The Booker Prize is supported by Crankstart, a charitable foundation.