First-time nominees dominate the shortlist of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, with novels about “lives you haven’t read about before … that grapple with society’s big issues expressed through thrilling storytelling”.
This year’s list is one of “complete contrasts”, says chair of judges Bernardine Evaristo, who announced the contenders: Brit Bennett (for The Vanishing Half), Susanna Clarke (Piranesi), Claire Fuller (Unsettled Ground), Yaa Gyasi (Transcendent Kingdom), Cherie Jones (How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House) and Patricia Lockwood (No One Is Talking About This).
The 26th winner of the prize, which empowers women writing in English from anywhere in the world to raise their voice and own their story, will be announced on July 7 and gets to take home £30,000 (RM176,000).
The Women’s Prize for Fiction, known by various names since its launch in 1996, was conceived by publishing industry professionals who objected to “chauvinism” in the selection of finalists for literary awards, such as the Booker Prize.
There was controversy in March when trans author Torrey Peters made this year’s longlist with her debut novel, Detransition, Baby. In response to online attacks against Peters, the prize organisers said they were “firmly opposed to any form of discrimination on the basis of race, age, sexuality, gender identity and all other protected characteristics, and deplores any attempts to malign or bully the judges or the authors”.
Six books are vying for the 2021 International Booker Prize, and the £50,000 award will be split between the winning author and translator come June 2.
On the shortlist are At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from French by Anna Moschovakis; The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell; When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West; The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken; In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale; and The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard, translated from French by Mark Polizzotti.
The annual prize is awarded to a single book translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland. This year, the judges considered 125 books and were amazed by the “fantastically vigorous and vital fiction [that] is being written... and writers pushing the boundaries while working in so many different modes”.
Three Australians are among five authors shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2021. Pip Williams (who wrote The Dictionary of Lost Words), Steven Conte (The Tolstoy Estate) and Kate Grenville (A Room Made of Leaves) are in the running, together with Maggie O’Farrell (Hamnet) and Hilary Mantel (The Mirror and the Light).
Mantel won the inaugural prize in 2010 for Wolf Hall, the first book of her trilogy on Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s adviser. The Mirror and the Light is the last.
Watch the video of judges revealing the shortlist below:
This article first appeared on May 24, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.