Ozeki’s ‘Tale for the Time Being’ on Shortlist for Man Booker Prize

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LONDON — Ruth Ozeki’s latest novel, “A Tale for the Time Being” (Canongate), has made the 2013 shortlist for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

Also on the list, which was announced on Tuesday, are “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus), “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton (Granta), “The Harvest” by Jim Crace (Picador), “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury), and “The Testament of Mary” by Colm Tóibín (Penguin).

The six novels were among 13 on the longlist, which was announced on July 23. The longlist was selected from 151 titles.

Ruth Ozeki

Any full-length novel written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland and published in the United Kingdom for the first time in the year of the prize is eligible. The novel must be an original work in English (not a translation) and must not be self-published.

In “A Tale for the Time Being,” Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery.

In a small cafe in Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyberbullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place — and voice — through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.

Los Angeles Times Book Critic David Ulin called it “an exquisite novel: funny, tragic, hard-edged and ethereal at once.”

Ozeki was born and raised in New Haven, Conn., by an American father and a Japanese mother. She studied English and Asian studies at Smith College. In June 2010 she was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest. She divides her time between British Columbia and New York.

She is also the author of “My Year of Meats” (1998), which won the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Award, the Imus/Barnes and Noble American Book Award, and a Special Jury Prize of the World Cookbook Awards in Versailles; and “All Over Creation” (2002), the recipient of a 2004 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, as well as the Willa Literary Award for Contemporary Fiction.

On the Web: www.ruthozeki.com

At the time of the longlist, academic, critic and writer Robert Macfarlane, chair of judges, praised the diversity of the books in contention for the prize as “wonderfully various in terms of geography, form, length and subject.” This remains true of the shortlist, with the six writers hailing from across the globe: Canada, Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and, for the first time in the prize’s history, Zimbabwe.

The shortlist was announced by Macfarlane at a press conference held at the Man Group’s London headquarters. He commented:

“Global in its reach, this exceptional shortlist demonstrates the vitality and range of the contemporary novel at its finest. These six superb works of fiction take us from gold-rush New Zealand to revolutionary Calcutta, from modern-day Japan to the Holy Land of the Gospels, and from Zimbabwe to the deep English countryside. World-spanning in their concerns, and ambitious in their techniques, they remind us of the possibilities and power of the novel as a form.”

Two writers have appeared on the shortlist before: Crace was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1997 for “Quarantine” (Viking), while Tóibín has been shortlisted twice for “The Blackwater Lightship” in 1999 and in 2004 with “The Master.”

It is the first time each of the four female writers has been nominated for the prize. They count amongst them a Buddhist priest (Ozeki), a member of Barack Obama’s President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (Lahiri) and the first Zimbabwean writer to make the shortlist (Bulawayo). Catton, who will be 28 at the time of the winner announcement, is the youngest on the shortlist.

Macfarlane was joined at the press conference by the four other members of the 2013 Man Booker Prize judging panel: renowned broadcaster Martha Kearney; critic, academic and prize-winning biographer Robert Douglas-Fairhurst; broadcaster, classicist and critic Natalie Haynes; and Stuart Kelly, essayist and former literary editor of Scotland on Sunday.

The judges now have just over a month to re-read the shortlisted titles and select one winner, who will be announced on Oct. 15 at a ceremony at London’s Guildhall.

In the meantime, the six authors are due to appear at a number of public events in London  in the run-up to the announcement. At the ceremony, which will be broadcast by the BBC, the six authors will each be presented with a check for 2,500 pounds (about $4,000) and a hand-bound edition of his/her book, prepared by some of the U.K.’s leading bookbinders. In addition, the winner receives 50,000 pounds (about $80,000).

This marks the 45th year of the Man Booker Prize. It was first awarded to P.H. Newby for “Something to Answer For” in 1969. Last year’s winner, Hilary Mantel, has made history as the first woman and the first British author to win the prize twice. Her two winning novels – “Bring Up the Bodies” and “Wolf Hall” – have sold over 1.5 million copies.

Further information about the prize can be found at www.themanbookerprize.com.

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