Toronto-based author Michael Ondaatje could be named the best author in the Man Booker Prize’s history. His 1992 novel The English Patient was announced as one of five novels shortlisted for the Golden Man Booker Prize on May 28. The other shortlisted novels were In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul, Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.
The prize commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize by choosing contenders from among the previous winners. The shortlist was chosen by a jury of five judges who were each assigned a decade and asked to choose the winner that “best stood the test of time.”
“The English Patient stands out because it does everything,” said novelist Kamila Shamsie, who judged the ’90s Booker winners. “It has an astonishing cast of characters who you fall in love with and care deeply about. It’s beautifully written, it’s very intricately structured, it has a vast canvas but it’s also very intimate. There are few books that remain in the world that I look at and think of as a miracle and this is one of them.”
To commemorate the honour, Bloomsbury Publishing has recreated the novel’s original cover, featuring a 1932 photograph of a climber from the Royal Geographical Society, for a new edition. The novel is distributed in Canada by Penguin Random House Canada.
Salman Rushdie’s 1981 novel Midnight’s Children won the “Booker of Bookers” prize in both 1993 and 2008 to celebrate the Booker’s 25th and 40th anniversaries. However, novelist and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, who judged the ’80s, broke with tradition to choose Penelope Lively’s 1987 novel Moon Tiger instead. The jury also includes writer and editor Robert McCrum, BBC Radio’s Simon Mayo, and poet Hollie McNish.
The winner will be chosen in a public vote, which closes June 25, and will be announced on July 8 at the Man Booker 50 Festival at the Southbank Centre, London. Ondaatje will appear in conversation with Kazuo Ishiguro and host a screening of the Oscar-winning film adaptation of The English Patient as part of the festival.