A tale on the global migration crisis by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid has made it to the Man Booker Prize shortlist, alongside works by American authors Paul Auster ( 4321), Emily Fridlund ( History of Wolves) and George Saunders ( Lincoln in the Bardo), and British authors Ali Smith () and Fiona Mozley ( Autumn).
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy’s first novel in 20 years, that was on the Booker longlist is out of the race.
The judges lauded Mr. Hamid’s “emotionally intelligent, clear, crisp” Exit West. The protagonists were two of the “many millions of people ready to sacrifice what they have for what they might gain, even as they recognise what they’re losing”, said Baroness Lola Young, head of the judging panel.
The six judges said the process of whittling down the longlist of 13 books to the shortlist of six had been a very difficult but interesting process. “There were robust discussions,” Baroness Young said, with another judge good humouredly quipping that there had been “fighting” before a final list could be agreed upon.
The authors who made it to the shortlist include some of literature’s biggest names alongside newcomers such as Ms. Mozley, whose powerful book on a family’s struggle to “retain its self-sufficiency as the old ways succumb to the bland greed of the new normality” made it a “timeless” and “timely” tale in the view of the judges.
All six books addressed “an issue of our time, not necessarily in a political fashion…all six are innovative… they are books about the world as it goes on and they are all looking at the world through different lenses to tell us something,” said Lila Azam Zanganeh, one of the judges.
Asked what had kept Ms. Roy’s book off the shortlist, the judges said it was not about the books that hadn’t made it to the list but about the strengths of those that had.
The judges were also asked if the fact that three U.S. authors had made it to the list of six suggested that fears about the list becoming too Americanised were grounded. Baroness Young said the panel had judged the books purely on their own terms. “We make judgements not based on anyone’s nationality, or gender but what is written on those pages,” she added. “We have done the job we were asked to do.”
Three South Asian writers – Ms. Roy, Mr. Hamid and Kamila Shamsie – had made it to the longlist announced in July. At the time, the judges described The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which made the longlist twenty years after The God of Small Things won the award, as a “rich and vital book” that came from the “bowels of India”.
Born in Lahore, Mr. Hamid is the author of three other novels, Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, as well as a collection of essays Discontent and Its Civilizations.
“Yes, I’m pro-migrant,” he told NPR earlier this year. “I personally tend to believe that there is a right to migration in the same way there is a right to love whom you like, to believe what you believe, and to say what you want to say.”