Episode 15

Booker Prize 2020: The shortlist episode

Every year the Booker Prize is awarded to the best original novel written in English and published in the UK. The longlist of 13 is whittled down to a shortlist of six, with much debate and discussion over who should win, who will win, and which books we are most delighted to have discovered. Ahead of the winner announcement on 19 November, Andrea, Ahlam and Annabelle from the Emirates Literature Foundation caught up with Saeed Saeed, Arts and Culture features writer for The National (thenationalnews.com) to discuss four of the six shortlisted books, and their own predictions.

Books and authors mentioned in this episode:

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi  

Ahlam reflects on the key conflict at the heart of Burnt Sugar – having to care for a parent who neglected you as a child. Set in contemporary Pune, India, the fraught mother-daughter relationship flits between Antara’s present-day looking after a mother with Alzheimer’s and her childhood where she was abandoned at an ashram and a boarding school.    

The Shadow King by Mazaa Mengiste 

Saeed Saeed takes us on a tour of a novel set during Italy’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia as an orphaned servant adapts to a new household, and ultimately takes up arms against Italian officers.

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

Diane Cook presents a world in which pollution and overpopulation is the new normal, and a group is sent to an unforgiving wilderness state as an experiment. Among this group are mother and daughter – Bea and Agnes – whose relationship is tested by both landscape, circumstances and what it means to be human.  

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Zimbabwean novelist, playwright, and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga tells the story of a woman embittered by her failed potential in a run-down youth hostel in Zimbabwe’s capital. Told in the second person, the novel is tense, immediate and an exploration of Zimbabwe and the legacy of its colonial history.

About us:

Ahlam Bolooki is the Festival Director for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the largest celebration of the written and spoken word in the Arab World. Ahlam finds it difficult to choose a favourite genre as it’s always changing and she’s still in the midst of discovering her literary self. She’s catching up on all the gems she missed as a child such as The Little Prince and The Giving Tree, but has also developed a new appetite for Crime Fiction so who knows what’s next?

Andrea Gissdal is the Head of Communications and Marketing for the Emirates Literature Foundation. From a voracious and indiscriminate reader as a child, to a part time bookseller as a student, as an adult she has become a literary omnivore but with a preference for fiction. She also dabbles in creative writing, and has a penchant for Scrabble.

Annabelle Corton is part of the team that puts together the programme of events for the EmiratesLitFest each year. She runs the Festival Book Club and has a background in guesting and presenting on talk radio shows about various literary topics. She likes words like ‘equinox’ and ‘vespa’, and loves a good pun. She’ll read anything in reach, but has a fondness for witty tussles of good vs. evil on page and screen, especially vampire fiction where a great deal is at stake. Get it? Stake? ….She’s not sorry. 

About the Podcast

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The Boundless Book Club
Tune in for fiction and non-fiction recommendations, and great conversations about books and authors from the Emirates Literature Foundation team and special guests.

About your host

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Emirates Literature Foundation

The Emirates Literature Foundation is a non-profit NGO established to change lives for the better by spreading the love of literature. Our flagship event is the annual Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the largest celebration of the written and spoken word in the Middle East.