“Love those U.S. books on #ManBooker2015 longlist, but also kinda feels like going to London and shopping at Bloomingdales,” Ron Charles, the editor of The Washington Post’s Book World, tweeted in July as the second year of the expanded version of the prestigious British literary prize competition got under way. For 45 years, eligibility was restricted to fiction written in English by authors from the U.K. and the Commonwealth, along with the Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. Since 2014, any novel written in English and published in England can be nominated, which has stirred fears of an American takeover.
Today’s announcement of the 2015 shortlist has quelled that anxiety for the second year in a row. Among the six novels chosen from the longlist of 13 announced on July 29, only two are by Americans, the same number as last year. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler join a group that hasn’t busted out of the old Commonwealth boundaries, but has stretched them. Marlon James (who teaches at Macalester College in Minnesota) is the first Jamaican writer ever to make it onto the list, with A Brief History of Seven Killings, and The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma, a Nigerian (who teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln), is a first novel. Two novels by British writers round out the finalists, Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island, and Sunjeev Sahota’s second novel, The Year of the Runaways.