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14 September 2021

The Booker Prize announces 2021 shortlist

This year’s shortlist, which features just one British author, is notably international.

By Ellen Peirson-Hagger

The shortlist of the 2021 Booker Prize, the highest literary accolade in the English-speaking world, was announced this afternoon. It comprises A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta), The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus), No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus), The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed (Viking), Bewilderment by Richard Powers (William Heinemann) and Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday). 

The shortlist features just one debut novel (Lockwood’s No One is Talking About This). It is, like last year’s shortlist, notably international, particularly for a prize that was only in 2014 opened up to any work published in the UK and written in (rather than translated into) English. Before that, authors had to be citizens of the Commonwealth or Ireland to be eligible. 

This year just Mohamed, who was born in Somaliland and now lives in London, has British citizenship. Lockwood, Shipstead and Powers are American, Arudpragasam is Sri Lankan and Galgut is South African. Four of the six shortlisted authors are white. Last year’s winner Douglas Stuart was the only white male and the only British author on the 2020 shortlist. 

The shortlist is balanced on gender terms (it features three male writers and three female). It is dominated by major publishing houses, including just one book published by an independent press, A Passage North, which was put out by Granta in July. Penguin Random House has published two-thirds of the list across four different imprints.

Both Powers and Galgut have had Booker nods before, but whoever claims the title this year will be a first-time winner. Klara and the Sun, by the 1989 prizewinner Kazuo Ishiguro, was longlisted but did not make the shortlist. This year’s judges are Maya Jasanoff, Horatia Harrod, Natascha McElhone, Chigozie Obioma and New Statesman contributing writer Rowan Williams. The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced on 3 November.

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The shortlist in full:

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  • A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta)
  • The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus)
  • No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus)
  • The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed (Viking)
  • Bewilderment by Richard Powers (Heinemann Hutchinson)
  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday)