The “Diverse” Booker Longlist

The release of this year’s Booker-prize longlist has attracted attention for allegedly being the “most diverse” in its history. Does this signal a new age for experimental or non-mainstream fiction?

Of the thirteen books and novelists on the list, perhaps only Jim Crace (with Harvest) and Colm Toibin (The Testament of Mary) will be widely known. Compared to the popular winner of 2012, Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies, most figures in 2013 are not household names. Three are debut novelists, and the longlist includes authors from Britain, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Ireland.

As Robert McFarlane, chair of the 2013 judges, has commented, the works “range from the traditional to the experimental, from the first century AD to the present day, from 100 pages to 1,000 and from Shanghai to Hendon.”

In a recent article for The White Review and an accompanying podcast for READ, Patricia Waugh and Jennifer Hodgson have pointed out that experimental fiction is often inadequately reflected in the reviews and awards of the literary press. Does the 2013 Booker-prize indicate a broadening of literary horizons? Or, in a week when the bestselling charts have been dominated by a newly-uncovered novel by J.K. Rowling, is this “diverse” Booker-prize list a one-off?

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