Tash Aw's newest novel; 2021 Booker Prize shortlist

PETRINA FERNANDEZ10/13/2021 08:22 PM GMT+08  • 5 min read
Tash Aw's newest novel; 2021 Booker Prize shortlist
Tash Aw's newest novel; 2021 Booker Prize shortlist
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Following the harrowing narration of protagonist Ah Hock’s tale in whydunit We, The Survivors, novelist
Tash Aw continues to contemplate Malaysia as a key setting in Strangers on a Pier: Portrait of a Family.
You would be forgiven for experiencing a brush of déjà vu at the title, as it closely resembles his 2016 memoir, The Face: Strangers on a Pier. Via a vignette of memories, anecdotes and observations stitched together, Aw examines his family’s inherited stories, handed down across generations, and the influence of his own experiences in shaping his identity, expressed on the cover by way of his face.

Six shortlisted titles to vie for Booker
Original stories told in individual voices and styles characterise the 2021 Booker shortlist, with love, loss, trauma and bereavement as recurring themes among the six books. They are No One Is Talking About This (by Patricia Lockwood), The Fortune Men (Nadifa Mohamed), A Passage North (Anuk Arudpragasam), The Promise (Damon Galgut), Bewilderment (Richard Powers) and Great Circle (Maggie Shipstead).
Panel chair Maya Jasanoff lauded the books for their ambition and intelligence, which led the judges to “engage in rich discussions about the quality of any given title, but often about the purpose of fiction itself”. Their comments were weighed alongside appraisals by one of the five judges for each of the novels, on how the works spoke to them, or did not.
The winner, who will receive £50,000, will be announced on Nov 3 at a ceremony hosted by the Booker Prize Foundation and the BBC at Broadcasting House’s Radio Theatre. For the third year, BBC Radio 4’s Front Row is running its Booker Prize Book Groups with the shortlisted authors. To join the groups, email [email protected]
Foundation director Gaby Wood applauded the intense reading the panel, “strangers of disparate backgrounds”, undertook over nine months.
“They proved that the best literature is elastic … and the best of fiction can make you feel as though your mind, or heart, are a little bit larger for having read it.”
Over in the US, the National Book Foundation has announced the 10 longlisted fiction titles for the 2021 National Book Award.
The contenders are Cloud Cuckoo Land (by Anthony Doerr), Matrix (Lauren Groff), Abundance (Jakob Guanzon), Zorrie (Laird Hunt), The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois (Honorée Fanonne Jeffers), The Prophets (Robert Jones Jr), Intimacies (Katie Kitamura), The Souvenir Museum: Stories (Elizabeth McCracken), Hell of a Book (Jason Mott) and Bewilderment (Richard Powers).
The finalists will be named on Oct 5 and the winner, on Nov 17. The prize is US$10,000, plus a bronze sculpture. Other categories for the National Book Awards, established in 1950 to celebrate the best writing in America, are Nonfiction, Poetry, Young People’s Literature and Translated Literature.

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