Lost Man Booker Prize longlist to award best omitted novel of 1970

Any of 22 authors, including Iris Murdoch and Joe Orton, could be awarded the coveted Lost Man Booker prize for novels that missed out due to rule changes in 1971

Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch’s A Fairly Honourable Defeat, could, rather ironically, win the new Lost Man Booker for 1970 novels.

The few seconds between the reading of the shortlist and the tearing open of the prizewinner’s envelope can last a nerve-mangling eternity for even the most garlanded writer. Imagine, then, what it must be like to wait 40 years to discover whether your manuscript has won one of the most prestigious awards in literature.

That is the predicament in which 22 authors – some living, many not – find themselves today as the longlist for the Lost Man Booker prize is announced.

The award aims to commemorate the works that “fell through the net” in 1970 after changes to the Booker rules. In 1971, two years after the prize was first given, it ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became, as it is now, a prize for the best novel in the year of publication.

The date on which the award was given was also moved from April to November, creating a gap when a wealth of 1970 fiction could not be eligible. Among the big names in the running for the Lost Man Booker – which will be awarded in May – are Iris Murdoch, David Lodge, Muriel Spark, Joe Orton, Melvyn Bragg, HE Bates, JG Farrell, Ruth Rendell, Nina Bawden, Brian Aldiss and Susan Hill.

In an attempt to expiate their sin, the organisers of the prize have appointed a panel of three judges – all of whom were born in or around 1970 – to select a shortlist of six novels from the longlist. The panel consists of the journalist and critic Rachel Cooke, the ITN newsreader Katie Derham and the poet and novelist Tobias Hill.

The idea for a lost prize came to Peter Straus, honorary archivist to the Booker Prize Foundation, after he found out that Fifth Business by Robertson Davies was not considered for the prize in 1971.

Although it eventually transpired that the book was ineligible because it was published in 1970 in Canada, but 1971 in the UK, investigations showed that an entire year had been excluded.

“I am delighted that, even in a Darwinian way, this year, with so many extraordinary novels, can now be covered by the Man Booker prize,” said Straus.

Ion Trewin, literary director of the Man Booker prizes, said the longlist showed that 1970 was “a remarkable year” for fiction written in English. “Recognition for these novels and the eventual winner is long overdue,” he said.

The list includes distinguished writers with enduring bodies of work such as JG Farrell, whose The Siege of Krishnapur won the prize in 1973, and Murdoch, whose The Sea, The Sea won in 1978. Lodge was shortlisted in 1984 and 1988 and chaired the prize in 1989, Spark was shortlisted in 1969 and in 1981, Bawden was shortlisted in 1987 and Hill was shortlisted in 1972 and judged the 1975 prize. Rendell is longlisted for A Guilty Thing Surprised, Orton for Head To Toe, Murdoch for A Fairly Honourable Defeat, Bragg for A Place In England, Bates for A Little Of What You Fancy?, and Hill for I’m the King of the Castle.

The shortlist will be announced in March and the public will decide the winner by voting on the Man Booker prize website.Here are the 22 longlisted books, which remain in print and are generally available:

Brian Aldiss, The Hand Reared Boy

HE Bates, A Little Of What You Fancy?

Nina Bawden, The Birds On The Trees

Melvyn Bragg, A Place In England

Christy Brown, Down All The Days

Len Deighton, Bomber

JG Farrell, Troubles

Elaine Feinstein, The Circle

Shirley Hazzard, The Bay Of Noon

Reginald Hill, A Clubbable Woman

Susan Hill, I’m The King Of The Castle

Francis King, A Domestic Animal

Margaret Laurence, The Fire Dwellers

David Lodge, Out Of The Shelter

Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat

Shiva Naipaul, Fireflies

Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Joe Orton, Head To Toe

Mary Renault, Fire From Heaven

Ruth Rendell, A Guilty Thing Surprised

Muriel Spark, The Driver’s Seat

Patrick White, The Vivisector


Full article and photo: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/01/lost-man-booker-longlist-1970