Salman Rushdie and Arunadhati Roy are competing with Yann Martel for The Best of the Booker. Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is neck to neck in the race with The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Rushdie won in 1981 and Martel in 2002. The Life of Pi is a fable of survival after a shipwreck (2002) while Midnight’s Children challenges ideas of history and nationhood (1981).
The best ever-The Best of the Booker will honor the best overall novel to have won the prize since it was first awarded on 22 April 1969 to mark its 40th anniversary. This is the second time a celebratory award has been created, the first was in 1993 – the 25th anniversary. Interestingly Booker of Bookers of 1993 was Salman Rushdie for Midnight’s Children.
In all, 41 novels will be eligible for the award, including three by Indian authors- Rushdie’s Midnight Children, Roy’s God of Small Things and Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss.
Unlike 1993, you can now vote for your favorite author. A panel of judges has been appointed to select a shortlist of six novels. They are biographer, novelist and critic Victoria Glendinning, (Chair); writer and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, and John Mullan, Professor of English at UCL. They will announce their shortlist in May, and public voting will then begin via the Man Booker Prize website www.themanbookerprize.com.
Bombay-born Rushdie, 60, knighted last year by the British Queen, is best known for his controversial novel The Satanic Verses (1988). Currently a ‘Writer in Residence’ at Emory University in Atlanta, US, Rushdie has just finished his new novel, The Enchantress of Florence, which will be published in June. Set in renaissance Florence and the court of the Mughal Empire, the novel reveals a tale of a woman trying to command her own destiny in man’s world. On the personal front, I have heard he is dating Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher, and is in the middle of a divorce from his fourth wife, Indian American actress and cookbook author Padma Lakshmi.
“Salman Rushdie is an inspiration for all of us”, says Indra Sinha, whose novel Animal’s People was short listed for the Man Booker Prize for 2007.
Arundhati Roy, Booker of 1997, for God of Small Things, donated the prize money of 1.5 million dollar to Narmada Bacchao Andolan (Struggle to Save Narmada) in 1999, and has since been an active voice on social issues.
Kiran Desai, Booker of 2006, for The Inheritance of Loss, was initially dismissed by the bookmakers as the 7/1 outsider. The judges – the poet and novelist Simon Armitage, the novelist Candia McWilliam, the critic Anthony Quinn and the actress Fiona Shaw – felt differently. After a session that lasted two hours, the panel chose Desai’s novel over: In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar, The Secret River by Kate Grenville, Carry Me Down by M J Hyland, Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn and The Night Watch by Sarah Waters.
While the world will vote to honor the best ever- Best of the Booker, it is our chance to mark the fine tradition of Booker winners set in India, such as Heat and Dust, Staying On , The God of Small things , Midnight’s children, and Inheritance of Loss .