TWO years ago when the most recent winner of the Man Booker International Prize for fiction was announced, one of judges stomped off in high dudgeon.
Carmen Calill, the Australian founder of feminist publishing house Virago, dissociated herself immediately from the decision to give the prize, awarded biennially to a writer for a body of work rather than an individual book, to the veteran American novelist Philip Roth. Calill lambasted his writing and complained that his novels were all the same. So she would have been one reader disappointed when it was revealed in November that Roth had given up writing fiction.
There is unlikely to be any fuss this year when the judges, led by academic, critic and Bob Dylan enthusiast, Christopher Ricks, and expanded from three to five, announce their winner on May 22. At the Jaipur literary festival on Thursday, Professor Ricks unveiled this year's shortlist of 10 writers from nine countries, with only one, the American writer Marilynne Robinson, having been up for the award before.
The full list is: U. R. Ananthamurthy (India); Aharon Appelfeld (Israel); Lydia Davis (US); Intizar Husain (Pakistan); Yan Lianke (China); Marie NDiaye (France); Josip Novakovich (Canada); Marilynne Robinson (US); Vladimir Sorokin (Russia), and Peter Stamm (Switzerland).
If Lianke were to win, it would follow swiftly his compatriot Mo Yan receiving the Nobel Prize for literature. Lianke's latest novel, Lenin's Kisses, was recently published in Australia. Fairfax's review described it as "a triumph, a blistering absurdist allegory and a genuine contest to the idea that writers working in China are rendered mute . . . by the political structure around them".
Ricks and the other judges – academic and writer Elif Batuman, and novelists Aminatta Forna, Yiyun Li and Tim Parks – selected about 150 novelists before whittling them down to the shortlist. Ricks said in a statement "some of these men and women are in their 80s, the youngest in their 40s and 50s. They write in ways that are astonishingly different".
The winner will receive £60,000 ($A90,000) and can nominate a translator of his or her work to receive £15,000.