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Young NZ author wins spot on Man Booker shortlist

The shortlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize is out — and a 28-year-old author from New Zealand could be the youngest ever winner of the prestigious literary gong.

The shortlist for the 45th annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction was announced last night in the UK, and young voices that span the globe have dominated.

From a longlist described by the judges as “surely the most diverse in Man Booker history” comes a shortlist with authors from New Zealand, England, India, Canada, Ireland and Zimbabwe.

Global in its reach, this exceptional shortlist demonstrates the vitality and range of the contemporary novel at its finest,” chair of judges Robert Macfarlane said last night. ”World-spanning in their concerns, and ambitious in their techniques, they remind us of the possibilities and power of the novel as a form.”

New Zealand novelist Eleanor Catton — at 28, the youngest-ever author to be shortlisted — is nominated for her intricate tome The Luminaries, a mystery set in the NZ goldfields. At 832 pages, it stands as an unusual success story at a time when many new releases are regarded as unmarketable if they run beyond 300 pages.

Last year, Hilary Mantel made history as the first woman and the first British author to win the prize twice, when she won for Bring up the Bodies. If Catton wins she would make history as the youngest. Catton has been tipped as a favourite, alongside the bookies’ pick, Jim Crace, whose work Harvest is said to be his last novel.

Noteworthy also is NoViolet Bulawayo, the only debut novelist among the titles for We Need New Names. She is the first Zimbabwean author ever shortlisted.

In an interesting use of social media, the Man Booker announced the shortlist on Twitter using a Vine video of a shelf of the 13 longlisted works to slowly reveal the six remaining books. Each of the six also received their own Vine videos playfully interpreting the cover. This marks a new engagement with social media by literary prizes — our own Miles Franklin Award revealed this year’s longlist via Twitter, slowly revealing the covers of the titles one Twitpic at a time.

We looked for books that sought to extend the power and possibility of the form. This is in keeping with the history of the novel,” Macfarlane told the press conference. “We wanted novel novels.” There is great diversity not only of subject matter — from biblical Middle East to modern Tokyo, rural England to gold-rush NZ — but also form: Catton’s work extends to 832 pages, while Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary at 104 pages is the slimmest novel ever to be shortlisted.

The six shortlisted titles are:

The prize “aims to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland”, with the winner receiving 50,000 pounds. The overall winner of the 2013 prize will be revealed on October 15.

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