The Booker Prize 2022 shortlist — a guide to the six finalists in the running

Short stories, whodunnit comedies and an examination of political power told through the eyes of animals make the cut

'These six books, we believe, speak powerfully about important things,' Neil MacGregor, jury chair of the awards, said. Photo: Booker Prize
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After reading 169 books, judges of the Booker Prize 2022 have announced the shortlist, which includes a variety of voices, perspectives and stories, several of which are inspired by real events.

The novels competing for the literary prize include Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo, Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, The Trees by Percival Everett, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka, Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout and Treacle Walker by Alan Garner. They were selected by the panel of five judges from the longlist of 13 books.

“These six books, we believe, speak powerfully about important things,” Neil MacGregor, jury chair of the Booker Prize 2022 said in a statement.

“Set in different places at different times, they are all about events that in some measure happen everywhere, and concern us all. Each written in English, they demonstrate what an abundance of Englishes there are, and how many distinct worlds, real and imaginary, exist in that simple-seeming space, the Anglosphere.”

The shortlisted authors span five different nationalities and four continents with an equal split between men and women, including the oldest author to be shortlisted as well as the shortest book. Half of the list is published by independent publishers, including first-time nominees Influx Press and Sort of Books.

“The shortlist that eventually emerged shows great geographical breadth as well as linguistic and conceptual agility,” Gaby Wood, director of the Booker Prize Foundation said.

“Together, these six novels look at history and at the lives of individuals with wit, courage and rage, allowing us to see the world through many sets of supremely perceptive eyes.”

'Glory' by NoViolet Bulawayo

'Glory' by NoViolet Bulawayo uses animal characters to tell a story about violence and power. Photo: Booker Prize

Described by the judges as “a magical crossing of the African continent in its political excesses and its wacky characters", Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo is the story of an uprising, told by a lively cast of animal voices.

In a faraway land a long time ago, animals lived in perpetual peace until colonists arrived.

After a hundred years of a gruesome war, there’s new hope and a new leader — a charismatic horse who commanded the sun.

Glory tells a story of violence, hope and the power struggles, as well as illusions, between victims and their oppressors.

NoViolet Bulawayo grew up in Zimbabwe and moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, the US, when she was 18. Glory is Bulawayo's second novel, her first We Need New Names, was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

‘Small Things Like These’ by Claire Keegan

‘Small Things Like These’ by Claire Keegan is a story of quiet heroism against the sins committed in the name of religion. Photo: Booker Prize

Judges described Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These as a “measured and merciless” novel that “dissects the silent acquiescence of a 1980s Irish town in the Church’s cruel treatment of unmarried mothers".

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, is faced with an unsettling past encountering complicit silences of a small Irish town controlled by the Catholic Church in 1985.

At 116 pages, it has become the shortest-ever Booker Prize nominee.

Keegan’s work, which includes short stories and novels, has won numerous awards and been translated into 30 languages. Small Things Like These was shortlisted for the 2022 Rathbones Folio Prize and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award and the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction.

‘The Trees’ by Percival Everett

'The Trees' by Percival Everett's murder mystery looks into the history of violence and racism. Photo: Booker Prize

Percival Everett’s murder mystery is described as “a dance of death with jokes — horrifying and howlingly funny — that asks questions about history and justice and allows not a single.”

Set in Money, Mississippi, The Trees centres on a series of murders. They are all linked by a second body found at the same crime scene of man who is mutilated to resemble Emmett Till — a young black boy lynched 65 years ago.

Eerily similar murders are taking place all over the country and detectives seek answers with a local root doctor, who has been documenting the country’s history of lynching for years.

Percival Everett, who resides in Los Angeles and teaches at the University of Southern California, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2021 for his novel Telephone and received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Book Critics Circle Awards 2022.

‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ by Shehan Karunatilaka

‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ is an epic, otherworldly satire set in Colombo, Sri Lanka, during the 1990 civil war. Photo: Booker Prize

Shehan Karunatilaka’sbook is an epic satire set in Sri Lanka in the midst of the 1990 civil war.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida tells the story of Maali Almeida, a war photographer, who finds himself dead and waiting in a celestial visa office.

He has no idea who killed him.

While time runs out in the afterlife for Maali, he has seven moons to contact the man and woman he loved most in the living world and lead them to a hidden photos that will rock Sri Lanka and perhaps solve his murder.

Karunatilaka, considered one of Sri Lanka’s foremost authors, won the Commonwealth Prize and Gratiaen Prize for his debut novel, Chinaman. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is his second novel.

‘Oh William!’ by Elizabeth Strout

‘Oh William!’ by Elizabeth Strout is a nuanced and quiet portrait of a complex relationship. Photo: Booker Prize

Lucy Barton is a writer, in New York, navigating her life as a widow and parent to two adult daughters. After a surprise encounter, she reconnects with William, her first husband.

As they recall their college years, birth of their daughters and the painful breakdown of their marriage, readers get a peek into the nuances of a long and complex relationship.

Judges described Oh William! as “one of those quietly radiant books that finds the deepest mysteries in the simplest things".

Elizabeth Strout is no stranger to the bestseller list. Her third novel alone, Olive Kitteridge, grossed more than $25 million and was made into an Emmy-winning television mini-series.

‘Treacle Walker’ by Alan Garner

‘Treacle Walker’ by Alan Garner delves into the mind of a young boy trying to make sense of the world around him. Photo: Booker Prize

Described as, “mysterious, beautifully written and affecting glimpse into the deep work of being human" by the judges, Alan Garner’s Treacle Walker combines myth, folklore and a coming of age story set in contemporary times.

The story centres on young Joe Coppock who loves comics and collects birds eggs and marbles. His world shifts though when Treacle Walker, a wanderer and healer, emerges from the moor one day and an unlikely friendship between the two is formed.

Alan Garner, who was awarded an OBE for his services to literature in 2001, is the only British author on the list and, at 87 years old, he is the oldest to be shortlisted. Though it is 152 pages long, Treacle Walker is shorter than Keegan's entry by word count.

The 2022 winner of the Booker Prize will be announced on October 17, with audiences welcomed back for the first time since 2019. The winning author will receive £50,000 ($57,468) and can expect international recognition and an increase in global book sales.

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Updated: September 08, 2022, 9:02 AM
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