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Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Atwood heads Booker shortlist
Martin Goff, Mariella Frostrup, Roy Foster, Caroline Gascoigne, Simon Jenkins, Rose Tremain
Booker Prize judges read 120 novels in seven months
Acclaimed Canadian writer Margaret Atwood heads the shortlist for this year's Booker Prize, announced on Thursday.

Atwood's novels have been critical and commercial successes and she has been shortlisted for the UK's most prestigious literary prize on three previous occasions - for Cat's Eye, The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace.

In its 32nd year, the UK's best-known literary award offers cash prizes totalling 26,000, and even greater rewards in publicity and sales figures.

The prize is awarded to the best full-length novel of the year and is open to authors from Britain, the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland.

The full shortlist:
Margaret Atwood
Atwood is best known for her 1986 novel The Handmaid's Tale

  • Margaret Atwood - The Blind Assassin
  • Trezza Azzopardi - The Hiding Place
  • Michael Collins - The Keepers of Truth
  • Kazuo Ishiguro - When We Were Orphans
  • Matthew Kneale - English Passengers
  • Brian O'Doherty - The Deposition of Father McGreevy

    Previous winner

    Japanese-English writer Kazuo Ishiguro - who won the Booker in 1989 for Remains of the Day - is on the shortlist for the third time.

    His novel When We Were Orphans concerns a detective piecing together the mystery of his parents' disappearance when he was a small boy.

    Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day
    Remains of the Day by former winner Ishiguro, was hugely successful
    The other contenders include Michael Collins' story about a journalist investigating the death of an industrial magnate, and a tale about the Maltese community in Cardiff by first-time novelist Trezza Azzopardi.

    Also in contention are Michael Kneale's novel about a 19th century priest striving to prove the literal truth of the Bible against scientists, and Brian O'Doherty's story of an isolated Irish village in which all the women mysteriously die.

    William Hill's bookmakers have placed Atwood as an early favourite to claim this year's prize at 2-1.

    Ishiguro is second favourite at 5-2, Kneale is at 4-1, Collins is at 9-2, O'Doherty is at 5-1 and debut novelist Azzopardi is the outsider.

    'Greatly impressed'

    Times columnist Simon Jenkins, the chair of the panel of judges, commended the shortlisted writers:

    "Selecting the shortlist has not been easy but we have been greatly impressed by the range of books presented to us.

    Simon Jenkins
    Simon Jenkins: "There were a lot of books which almost made it"
    "They are all equal. We now commence a month of more reading, listening and discussion before we come up with an eventual winner," he said.

    Also on the panel are writer and broadcaster, Mariella Frostrup, Oxford University historian Roy Foster, the literary editor of The Sunday Times, Caroline Gascoigne, and best-selling author Rose Tremain.

    They have been busy whittling down the 120 novels submitted for the competition in April to the final six on the shortlist.

    The winner will receive 21,000 with the five other shortlisted authors receiving 1,000 each.

    The judges meet to choose the winner on 7 November, and the prize is awarded at a dinner at Guildhall, London that evening.

    Last year's winner was South African writer JM Coetzee for his novel Disgrace, which went on to sell over 100,000 copies in hardback, and 250,000 in paperback.

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    See also:

    26 Oct 99 | Entertainment
    Booker double for Coetzee
    21 Sep 99 | Entertainment
    Novelists line up for Booker Prize
    28 Oct 98 | Entertainment
    Booker win for Ian McEwan
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