We have been reading books throughout lockdown. “The longlist, or ‘The Booker Dozen’, for The 2020 Booker Prize was announced on, Tuesday 28 July 2020. This year’s longlist of 13 books was selected by a panel of five judges: Margaret Busby (chair), editor, literary critic and former publisher; Lee Child, author; Sameer Rahim, author and critic; Emily Wilson, classicist and translator and myself.
The list was chosen from 162 novels published in the UK or Ireland between 1 October 2019 and 30 September 2020. The Booker Prize for Fiction is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK or Ireland. Seven are debut novelists: Avni Doshi, Gabriel Krauze, Kiley Reid, Douglas Stuart, Brandon Taylor, Sophie Ward and C Pam Zhang. Of the 13 longlisted authors, nine are women and four are men
If any one of us were the sole judge the odds are that not one of us would have chosen this longlist. Furthermore if any of us were approached to choose four other judges the odds are that not a single one would have come up with the panel as it stands. And how it stands. Through this pandemic we have all been reading day and night. One judge became a father on the day the first books arrived and at the other end of the spectrum one judge lost her sister. One judge had to wake at 4am for each zoom meeting and one has three children. I can bear witness to commitment. We were all aware that it would challenge our daily lives. It turns out to have been some kind of blessing for me. I don’t know how I would have done it had their not been lockdown.
The longlist will become the shortlist. There could still be fall-outs and fights but I sense there’s too much respect for the writing to allow individual disagreements to cloud the enjoyment of our collective decision.