LONDON ~ Literary heavyweights AS Byatt and JM Coetzee have been named on the 13-strong longlist for the 2009 Booker Prize.
Both previous winners of the prestigious award, Byatt was nominated for The Children’s Book and Coetzee for his novel Summertime.
Judges’ chair and broadcaster James Naughtie praised the list as one of the strongest in “recent memory” with a strong span of styles and themes.
“We kept discovering new talent as well as reacquainting ourselves with familiar writers, and emerged with a feeling that we (the judges) were part of an exceptional year,” Naughtie said.
“We believe it to be one of the strongest lists in recent memory, with two former winners, four past-shortlisted writers, three first-time novelists and a span of styles and themes that make this an outstandingly rich fictional mix.”
One of the literary world’s most prestigious awards, the annual Booker Prize goes to the best work of fiction by an author from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.
Byatt, who took the award in 1990 for Possession, has been nominated for his portrait of childhood at the end of the Victorian era.
Coetzee, the 2003 Nobel Prize winner for literature who lives in Australia, has twice won the Booker for Disgrace in 1999 and Life & Times of Michael K in 1983.
Others longlisted are Irish writer Colm Toibin, who has been twice shortlisted for the prize in 1999 and 2004 only to miss out, for his book Brooklyn, about belonging.
First-timers Samantha Harvey for The Wilderness, Ed O’Loughlin for Not Untrue & Not Unkind and James Lever for Me Cheeta have also been chosen after 132 books were considered.
A Booker Prize nomination all but guarantees worldwide readership and an upsurge in book sales. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga won in 2008.
A total of 42 books have won the prize since it was launched in 1969, because the award was shared in 1974 and 1992. Contenders must have been published in the past year and originally written in English.
The shortlist will be revealed on September 8 and the winner announced at an awards ceremony in London’s Guildhall on October 6.
Booker Prize 2009 longlist:
AS Byatt for The Children’s Book
J M Coetzee for Summertime
Adam Foulds for The Quickening Maze
Sarah Hall for How to Paint a Dead Man
Samantha Harvey for The Wilderness
James Lever for Me Cheeta
Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall
Simon Mawer for The Glass Room
Ed O’Loughlin for Not Untrue & Not Unkind
James Scudamore for Heliopolis
Colm Toibin for Brooklyn
William Trevor for Love and Summer
Sarah Waters for The Little Stranger