Margaret Atwood's long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid's Tale has been included on the six-novel shortlist for the Booker Prize.
The Testaments, which will be published on Tuesday, September 10, is set 15 years after the final scene in Atwood's 1985 dystopian novel. Very few people have read The Testaments and the plot has been a closely guarded secret but at the announcement of the longlist in July, judging panel chair Peter Florence described it as "terrifying and exhilarating".
This is the sixth time that Atwood has been shortlisted for the award, which she won in 2001 for The Blind Assassin.
Another former winner, Salman Rushdie, has been included on the shortlist for Quichotte, his modern-day re-imagining of Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote.
Turkish author Elif Shafak is also shortlisted for her novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, which is told from the perspective of a murdered woman in the moments after her death.
Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma's An Orchestra of Minorities, which follows a Nigerian student scammed in Cyprus, Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other, 12 interlocking stories narrated largely by black British women, and Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport, a 1,000-page novel comprised almost entirely of a single sentence, complete the shortlist.
"The common thread is our admiration for the extraordinary ambition of each of these books," Florence said. "There is an abundance of humour, of political and cultural engagement, of stylistic daring and astonishing beauty of language. Like all great literature, these books teem with life, with a profound and celebratory humanity.
"We have a shortlist of six extraordinary books and we could make a case for each of them as winner, but I want to toast all of them as 'winners'. Anyone who reads all six of these books would be enriched and delighted, would be awe-struck by the power of story, and encouraged by what literature can do to set our imaginations free."
Kevin Barry, Oyinkan Braithwaite, John Lanchester, Deborah Levy, Valeria Luiselli, Max Porter and Jeanette Winterson are the longlisted authors who missed out on the shortlist.
Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said: "It was hard to watch the judges narrow down their longlist to this shortlist. They were so committed to all 13 of the books they’d chosen just over a month ago that the discussion was intense.
"Still, these six remain extraordinary. They bring news of different worlds. They carry a wealth of lives and voices. They’re in conversation, in various ways, with other works of literature. I think it's fair to say that the judges weren't looking for anything in particular. They entered this process with an open mind. But this is what they found: a set of novels that is political, orchestral, fearless, felt. And now, by association, those six will be in fruitful conversation with one another."
The winner of the £50,000 (Dh220,870) award will be announced on Monday, October 14 at a ceremony in London.
The Booker Prize shortlist
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (Galley Beggar Press)
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Hamish Hamilton)
An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma (Little, Brown)
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie (Jonathan Cape)
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak (Viking)