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Weekly Roundup: Whaletown, Zimbabwe and India

Weekly Roundup: Whaletown, Zimbabwe and India

What could possibly link the small settlement of Whaletown in British Columbia in Canada to the Man Booker Prize? The town, which sits on a rugged piece of coast opposite the wonderfully-named Desolation Sound, is the home to the new Canadian citizen Ruth Ozeki (Man Booker longlisted with A Tale For the Time Being). It may be a distant outpost, she says, but it's a literary place: “the only non-food store on this island is a bookstore”. Whaletown, which is “barely clinging on to the side of the continent, and where you spend 10 months of the year drenched in mist and rain” is so literary in fact that Edward St Aubyn, Man Booker shortlisted in 2006 with Mother's Milk, also recently spent some time there.

There is still time to place a bet on this year's longlisted authors before the announcement of the shortlist on Tuesday (10th September) when the odds will invariably shorten. If you fancy a flutter then Jim Crace's Harvest is currently the favourite at 5/2 followed by Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries at 4/1. More appealing odds though are offered by NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names at 10/1 and Eve Harris's The Marrying of Chani Kaufmann at 12/1. The bookies' predictions are immaterial to the judges, of course, but it will be interesting to see next week how close – or how distant – their crystal ball-gazing proves.

One of this year's Man Booker longlistees, NoViolet Bulawayo, has movingly expressed her shock at the state of her home country, Zimbabwe. She emigrated to America aged 18 and returned for the first time earlier this year. Back in Zimbabwe “I couldn't relate to anything, I couldn't understand anything, I felt like the country had changed the people and culture and I just felt like an outsider in my home. So I would be having conversations and I'd just tune out, and yet people didn't realise what was happening, that I was home but I was also lost.” Her novel We Need New Names is the country's first Man Booker longlisted book.

Jeet Thayil, shortlisted for the Man Booker last year with Narcopolis, has given an object lesson in authorial sang froid. He was recently interviewed by the Indian newspaper that gave his book what is termed in the trade a “stinker”. So did it turn Thayil all bitter and twisted? Not a bit of it: “so many people shared that review that, in a way, it sold copies for my book. I wanted to quote that review at the back of a future edition. I wanted to quote that line ... it's a fantastic line: 'The worst novel written in the English language anywhere'. I'm proud of writing that book. That's some achievement, you know. Because there have been a lot of books written in English. My thanks to the reviewer. I think he helped make the book popular.” Thayil may have had the last laugh but that's the way all novelists should respond to reviews.

Emma Donoghue's 2010 Man Booker shortlisted novel The Room is to be made into a film. Donoghue will also write the script for the film to be directed by Lenny Abrahamson. She had in fact started on a screenplay before she'd even finished the book and then put the idea to one side. She retrieved the script, apparently, when Abrahamson sent her “a ten page letter” detailing how he envisaged adapting the book for the big screen. Ten pages ... it certainly shows he has stamina.