LONDON — Hanya Yanagihara was among those announced Sept. 15 as the shortlisted authors for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
The names were announced by the chair of judges, Michael Wood, at a press conference at the offices of sponsor Man Group.
The judges remarked on the variety of writing styles, cultural heritage and literary backgrounds of the writers on the shortlist, which includes new authors alongside established names. Two authors come from the United Kingdom, two from the United States and one apiece from Jamaica and Nigeria.
This is the second year that the prize, first awarded in 1969, has been open to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the U.K. Previously, the prize was open only to authors from the U.K. and Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.
The 2015 shortlist of six novels is:
Marlon James (Jamaica), “A Brief History of Seven Killings” (Oneworld Publications)
Tom McCarthy (U.K.), “Satin Island” (Jonathan Cape)
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), “The Fishermen” (ONE, Pushkin Press)
Sunjeev Sahota (U.K.), “The Year of the Runaways” (Picador)
Anne Tyler (U.S.), “A Spool of Blue Thread” (Chatto & Windus)
Hanya Yanagihara (U.S.), “A Little Life” (Picador)
In Yanagihara’s 720-page novel, four college friends confront the bleakness of life. In an interview, she was asked if she was worried about overdoing the amounts of heartbreak, distress and trauma.
“No,” she said. “The one thing I didn’t want this book to be (and the one thing that I think, for better or worse, no one will accuse it of being) is polite. I wanted everything — the horror, the love, the distress, the compassion, the fortune, the misfortune — to feel heightened, to be pushed beyond what’s expected or even what’s wise; I wanted it to live at the far ends of the spectrums of human behavior and emotions.
“It should feel like a binge, somewhat, an experience that demands your attention and surrender: the small and large moments that punctuate any human life distilled into a concentrate.”
Yanagihara said she was thrilled when she made the longlist. “For one whole day, all of my colleagues at T Magazine (which is the style and culture magazine at The New York Times) looked at me with new respect and awe. It was all over the next day, but I’m honored every day to be in the company of these authors, some of whom I’ve read and admired for years.”
Her favorite Man Booker-winning novel is Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day,” which was recognized in 1989.
As for her next project, she said she’s considering two projects “and the embryo of a third,” but hasn’t committed to any of them.
“Only on rare occasions does celebration come so closely aligned with regret,” said Wood. “The regret of what we left out was tempered by the enormous excitement we have in presenting the six books on the shortlist.
“We re-read all 13 books on the longlist and in the process we rediscovered new pleasures in each. The writers on the shortlist present an extraordinary range of approaches to fiction. They come from very different cultures and are themselves at very different stages of their careers.”
Wood is joined on the 2015 panel of judges by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith and Frances Osborne. The judges considered 156 books for this year’s prize.
The 2015 winner will be announced on Oct. 13 in London’s Guildhall at a black-tie dinner that brings together the shortlisted authors and well-known figures from the literary world. The ceremony will be broadcast by the BBC. In the meantime, there will be a number of public events featuring the shortlisted authors, and the traditional Man Booker Prize Readings will take place at the Southbank Centre on the eve of the prize.
The shortlisted authors each receive 2,500 pounds and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner will receive a further 50,000 pounds and can expect international recognition.