The literary world is abuzz with news that London-based Indian-origin author Chetna Maroo's debut novel ‘Western Lane’ has been nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize longlist. The 2023 Booker Prize winner will be announced on November 26 at an award ceremony in London. The winner receives GBP 50,000 and a trophy named “Iris” in honour of the 1978 Booker Prize-winning Irish-British author Iris Murdoch.
Kenya-born Maroo’s novel, set within the context of the British Gujarati milieu, has been praised by the Booker judges for its use of the sport of squash as a metaphor for complex human emotions. The novel tells the story of an 11-year-old girl named Gopi and her bonds with her family. The novel follows the lives of several characters as they navigate their way through the modern world. The novel deals with themes of love, loss, hope, and identity as the characters try to come to terms with their new reality.
“Skilfully deploying the sport of squash as both context and metaphor, ‘Western Lane’ is a deeply evocative debut about a family grappling with grief, conveyed through crystalline language which reverberates like the sound 'of a ball hit clean and hard… with a close echo'," said the Booker Prize judging panel, chaired by twice Booker-shortlisted Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan.
Edugyan was joined on the judging panel by British actor, writer and director Adjoa Andoh; Hong Kong Chinese poet, lecturer, editor and critic Mary Jean Chan; American author and professor James Shapiro; and British actor and writer Robert Webb.
'Western Lane' is one of four debut novels that make up this year’s so-called “Booker Dozen” of 13 longlisted books, alongside ‘If I Survive You’ by Jonathan Escoffery, ‘Pearl’ by Siân Hughes and ‘All the Little Bird-Hearts’ by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow.
Sebastian Barry’s ‘Old God’s Time’, Paul Harding’s ‘The Other Eden’, Ayobami Adebayo’s ‘A Spell of Good Things’, Paul Lynch’s ‘Prophet Song’, Martin Macinnes’ ‘In Ascension’, Tan Twan Eng’s ‘The House of Doors’, Paul Murray’s ‘The Bee Sting’, Sarah Bernstein’s ‘Study for Obedience’, and Elaine Feeney’s ‘How to Build a Boat’ make up the rest of the longlist.
The 13 books, with authors spanning Malaysia, Nigeria, Ireland, Canada, the US and the UK, explore universal and topical themes – from deeply moving personal dramas to tragicomic family sagas, from the effects of climate change to the oppression of minorities, and from scientific breakthroughs to competitive sport.
Their selection was made from 163 books published between October 2022 and September 2023 and submitted by publishers. The Booker Prize is open annually to works of long-form fiction by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.
The Chief Executive of the Booker Prize Foundation, Gaby Wood said, “The range of experience, expertise and sensibility among this year’s judges led them to seek novels that both advanced the form and allowed the reader to understand something about the world; books that would have impact and longevity; books that moved them – and above all, books of such excellence and subtlety that the judges looked forward to re-reading them."
The longlist will be whittled down to a shortlist of six books, to be announced on September 21 at an event at the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery in London. The shortlisted authors will each receive GBP 2,500 and a specially-bound edition of their book.
Chetna’s nomination for the Booker Prize is a great victory for Indian authors everywhere. It is a testament to Chetna’s talent and her ability to tell an engaging story that resonates with readers from all walks of life. Western Lane is a must-read for anyone interested in modern India and its culture.
(With PTI Inputs)