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First-time novelist, first Jamaican among Booker Prize shortlist authors

First-time novelist Chigozie Obioma and Jamaican writer Marlon James are among the six authors who have been shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. The other shortlisted authors are Tom McCarthy (“Satin Island”), Sunjeev Sahota (“The Year of the Runaways”), Anne Tyler (“A Spool of Blue Thread”) and Hanya Yanagihara (“A Little Life”).

The shortlist was surprising not so much for who it contained, but for who it left out. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson, whose longlisted work “Lila” has already won the National Book Critics Circle Award, was widely expected to make the shortlist. Former Booker Prize winner Anne Enright was also eliminated, as was leading literary agent Bill Clegg.

“Only on rare occasions does celebration come so closely aligned with regret,” Chair of Judges Michael Wood said in a statement. “The regret of what we left out was tempered by the enormous excitement we have in presenting the six books on the shortlist.”

Although all six of the authors are resident in the U.S. or U.K., the shortlist has been noted for its diversity. At 28, Nigerian novelist Chigozie Obioma is the youngest author on the list with his debut novel, while at 73, Anne Tyler has been shortlisted for her 20th. Only two of the authors are white, and James is the first Jamaican writer to be nominated.

The literary favorite to win is Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life.” If Yanagihara won, she would be the first American to take the prize, which has only been open to Americans for two years. Previously, the prize was restricted to Commonwealth authors.

The two other books that have been generating a fair amount of prize talk are James’ “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” about gang violence in Jamaica and Obioma’s “The Fishermen,” about four brothers in 1990s Nigeria.

The winner of the prestigious £50,000 literary prize will be announced Oct. 13.

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