Hilary Mantel: I am “disappointed but liberated” by the Booker decision | Books


Two-time Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel said she was ‘disappointed’ but ‘released’ that she was not on this year’s shortlist, congratulating the six authors currently competing for the £ 50,000 prize .Mantel, who won the prize for the first two novels in his historical trilogy on Thomas Cromwell, had been tipped to win a third time for the final volume, The Mirror and the Light. But the judges for this year’s award have instead selected four debuts, by Diane Cook, Avni Doshi, Douglas Stuart and Brandon Taylor alongside new novels by Tsitsi Dangarembga and Maaza Mengiste. After announcing the lineup, judge and novelist Lee Child said The Mirror and the Light was “an absolutely wonderful novel, there’s no question about it,” but “as good as it was, there was books that were better ”.

“I respect the judges’ decision because I was a judge and it’s very difficult. I accept that books are born at a certain cultural moment. They ride the tide of time. In a way, I also feel liberated. I think the trilogy is built to last, ”Mantel told The Guardian. “I can’t say anything other than congratulate everyone on the shortlist.”

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald this week, Mantel was philosophical about missing out. “Of course I’m disappointed, but you can’t doubt the judges. I’m sure they had a huge range of great novels to choose from and I’m not complaining, ”she says.

The lineup announcement, she said, meant the Booker was “something I could draw a line on and I could say, okay, it’s over, here’s a new phase.” While disappointing on one level, it was quite liberating on one level.

For Mantel, who is currently adapting The Mirror and the Light for the stage, and who will be releasing a collection of essays, Mantel Pieces, in October, the conclusion to his trilogy was “the most complex” of the three. “It was the hardest to write and it’s probably the most demanding on the reader, but of course that’s just my opinion,” she told SMH.

She added that she “would prefer that judges keep their cards close to their chests” when it comes to discussing individual titles.

“It’s up to the judges to talk about it outside the meeting room; personally I never did. While I was a judge I did not comment on any of the books that were under review, but many years have passed since then and there is obviously new thinking, ”she said.

This year’s Booker Judges chair, publisher Margaret Busby, emphasized the importance of diversity, saying this year’s shortlist “has allowed us to revel in skillful storytelling and be surprised by what incredible voices must express ”. Last year’s winner, Bernardine Evaristo, also praised the picks, stating that “if you are looking for new perspectives and stories you will surely find him among the most under-represented voices”. But The Times said the award “no longer sees its primary purpose as a guide to the best novels published in Britain over the past year,” criticizing the judges for being “more interested in casting new voices or amplify writers from backgrounds far from his Hampstead. reputation “.

With all of the shortlisted authors except Dangarembga, either from the United States or a common US citizenship, Mantel said the 2014 rule change to allow any author writing in English to enter led to ” an infusion of new energy ”, and that Commonwealth writers should have no fear of competition. Previously open only to Commonwealth writers, some in the UK publishing industry have warned the change has led to the dominance of US authors.

Mantel also questioned the idea of ​​the Booker being deemed blind, which has been launched in the past. “If it was a book about Thomas Cromwell I think they would know it’s me and to be honest if the judges just couldn’t pick the authors I wouldn’t think much about their literary sense,” she told SMH. “It might work for the first prizes of novels, but people tend to develop distinct voices and of course that can lead to mischievous writers imitating each other. I bet a lot of us could take down a Martin Amis.

She said she probably wouldn’t watch when Booker’s winner was announced on November 17. “I probably won’t think about it to be honest,” she said. “I mean, I’m very happy for the writers who are on the shortlist. It’s a new start for them, but I have lots of projects in me. If I have the energy to carry them out, I am certainly not short of ideas.


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