Hilary Mantel favourite for the Man Booker prize as shortlist of six is unveiled
17:00 GMT, 11 September 2012
Man Booker prize favourite: Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Past winner Hilary Mantel has again been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, alongside first-time nominee Will Self.
Mantel, who won the literary award in 2009 with Wolf Hall, is the only novelist to have previously featured on the shortlist of six and is now listed for her book Bring Up The Bodies.
The nominees were announced by chair of the judging panel Sir Peter Stothard, Editor of The Times Literary Supplement.
The winner will be announced on October 16 at a ceremony in London’s Guildhall.
Two of the books on the shortlist, Indian writer Thayil’s Narcopolis and Moore’s The Lighthouse, are debut novels.
The winner will receive a 50,000 prize, in addition to the 2,500 awarded to all shortlisted writers and, importantly, a huge boost in sales for their work.
Last year’s winner, The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes, has sold more than 300,000 print editions in the UK.
Writers who were on the longlist of 12 but failed to make the final cut included Michael Frayn, Nicola Barker and Andre Brink.
Peter said of the list: 'After re-reading an extraordinarily long list
of 12, it was the pure power of prose that settled most debates.
Debut novels: Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil and The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
'We loved the shock of language shown in so many different ways and were exhilarated by the vigour and vividly defined values in the six books that we chose – and in the visible confidence of the novel’s place in forming our words and ideas.'
Also among the figures on the judging panel are Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens and historian and broadcaster Amanda Foreman.
Final three: The Garden of Evening Kists by Tan Tang Eng, Swimming Home by Deborah Levy and Umbrella by Will Self
If Mantel scoops the prize, she will become the first British writer to win it twice.
Peter added: 'The judges agree that we have been very fortunate judges.
This has been an exhilarating year for fiction. The strongest I would
say for more than a decade.
Tan Twan Eng – The Garden Of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books)Deborah Levy – Swimming Home (And Other Stories/Faber & Faber)Hilary Mantel – Bring Up The Bodies (Fourth Estate)Alison Moore – The Lighthouse (Salt)Will Self – Umbrella (Bloomsbury)Jeet Thayil – Narcopolis (Faber & Faber)
'There are first novels from India and the East Midlands, small publishers from Newcastle, north Norfolk and High Wycombe alongside novels by Hilary Mantel and Will Self, two of the great established radicals of contemporary literature.'
One of the books on the shortlist, Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, set in a summer villa, was rejected by traditional publishers and only hit the shelves thanks to a publisher which relies on subscriptions from readers.
The judges said they believed that any of the books on the shortlist could end up taking the 50,000 fiction prize.
Of the judging process, Sir Peter said: 'We were considering all the time novels, not novelists, texts not reputations. We read and we re-read. It was the power and depth of prose that settled most of the judges’ debates.
'We eventually found six books most likely to last and repay future rereading. They are very different books but they all show a huge and visible confidence in the novel’s place in the renewal of our… ideas.”
He added: 'What unites these shortlisted books is not a theme or idea or shared concern or anxiety. What united our response to them is the shock of language shown in so many different ways.
'Without the renewal of English the novel does nothing very much.'
A taster of the Man Booker prize shortlisted novels
Deborah Levy, Swimming Home
Set in a summer villa, Swimming Home is Levy's first novel in a decade.
Traditional publishers turned down the novel and it only hit the bookshelves following the help of supporters and friends and through the use of subscription.
The novel, set on the French Riviera over a single week, examines the devastating effect that depression can have on apparently stable people.
Judges praised the 'technical artistry, glowing prose' and 'intimate exposure of loss' in the novel.
Levy, 53, is the author of several novels including Beautiful, Mutants and Swallowing Geography.
Hilary Mantel, Bring Up The Bodies
This book is the second in Mantel's trilogy on Thomas Cromwell. Her first, the best-seller Wolf Hall, won the Man Booker in 2009.
Other books by Derbyshire-born Mantel, 60, who was awarded a CBE in 2006, include Beyond Black and An Experiment In Love.
Judges said that she had shown 'even greater mastery of method, powerful realism, and the separation of past and present and the vivid depiction of English character and landscape' in her latest work.
Alison Moore, The Lighthouse
A middle-aged, recently-separated man crosses the Channel by ferry after the failure of his marriage in this novel, which judges praised for its 'bleak inner landscape' and 'acute sense of smell'.
Manchester-born Moore, 41, who lives in Nottingham, has been shortlisted for her first novel. The book is one of several by small publishing houses on the list.
Will Self, Umbrella
Umbrella is set across an entire century and follows a misdiagnosed woman in a north London mental hospital, her family and her doctor.
Judges said that the novel, which has no chapters and few paragraph breaks, was both 'moving and draining'.
'Those who stick with it will find it much less difficult than it first seems,' they said.
Novelist and journalist Self, 50, appears on the shortlist for the first time and has been installed as favourite to win by bookies. His previous books include How The Dead Live, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year, and The Butt.
Tan Twan Eng, The Garden Of Evening Mists
The Garden Of Evening Mists follows a young law graduate who seeks solace among the plantations of the Cameron Highlands during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia.
The book is the second by the writer, 38, who was born in Malaysia and now lives in Cape Town.
Judges said that they had likened the book's beauty 'to that of slowly crashing icebergs'.
Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis
This book is the first novel by 53-year-old Indian writer Thayil, who is a performance poet, songwriter and guitarist.
The author, who lives in New Delhi, has published four collections of poetry.
Judges said of the book, which is said to capture the Bombay of the 1970s in all its 'compelling squalor', 'poetry is not often the stepping stone of the novel, but we very much admire this perfume prose'.