A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism – 2018人布克·朗赛尔的一部图画小说无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义

Opinion - 26 Jul 2018

A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism

The continued dominance of UK-US writers makes a mockery of the Man Booker’s ‘global outlook’

By Harry Thorne

It is perhaps not the most glowing endorsement of contemporary literature that what Zadie Smith declared ‘the best book – in any medium – I have read about our current moment’ contains very few words. Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina (Granta, 2018) is a 204-page graphic novel set in a fledgling Trump hellscape; through the chilling tale of a missing woman, it etches out a contemporary condition rinsed clean of intimacy, trust and truth. Like a tattered dove in an open hand, Drnaso’s storyboards offer up the many small cruelties inflicted upon us by an impersonal contemporary world that remains intent on leaving us speechless. Perhaps the laconism is apposite, after all.


A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism - 2018人布克·朗赛尔的一部图画小说无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义

Nick Drnaso, Sabrina, 2018. Courtesy: Granta

Drnaso does not regard Sabrina as a novel, or ‘doesn’t think in those terms’ – ‘I’m very much a cartoonist’. Curious, then, that the book has become the first graphic novel to ever be nominated for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. While in formal terms Sabrina stands apart from this year’s nominees, it is very much at home on a 13-strong longlist that depicts a world on the brink of collapse. This selection of novels – often uncomfortable, often unhinged, infrequently knowing of hope – is our contemporary experience told through distressing tales – the only way it can be.

Accordingly, trauma scores high, whether inherent, inflicted or felt afresh. Guy Gunaratne’s In Our Mad and Furious City (Headline, 2018) tracks three young men as they navigate a 48-hour race riot on a north London estate. Gunaratne’s anxious fiction, Shahidha Bari writes, ‘hovers on the fringes of real events’, a phrase that similarly lingers over several of this year’s nominated texts. In preparation for The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape, 2018), Rachel Kushner spent time in a number of US prisons, while Richard Powers’s The Overstory (William Heinemann, 2018) lolls somewhere between environmentalist saga and crooning love song to the enduring splendour of the natural. In Milkman (Faber, 2018), Anna Burn recounts the Troubles in Northern Ireland from the perspective of a disinterested 18-year-old girl but, in contouring a nation ‘conditioned too, through years of personal and communal suffering […] to be overladen with heaviness and grief and fear and anger’, summons a bursting catalogue of international regimes of oppression and the echoes of violence that linger in their wake.


A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism - 2018人布克·朗赛尔的一部图画小说无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义

Guy Gunaratne, In Our Mad and Furious City, 2018. Courtesy: Headline

When compared with the ‘Man Booker Dozen’ of 2017, tethered as it was by the likes of Paul Auster, Arundhati Roy and Ali Smith, this year’s longlist is fleet of foot. And while graced by the long-established crime writer Belinda Bauer and the returning Michael Ondaatje – who won the Booker in 1992 and was recently awarded the Golden Booker (a one-off ‘Booker of Bookers’ commemorating the award’s 50th anniversary this year) – it is the younger writers and those peddling debut novels who shimmer. Sophie Mackintosh’s needling debut, The Water Cure (Hamish Hamilton, 2018), sees three sisters flee reality for an island facility upon which, removed as it is from the cacophonous torments of men, ‘women can be healthful and whole’. The idyll is imposture. Marshalled by a King Lear-esque patriarch who has devised a torturous programme of recuperation, the island communicates a single known truth: abuse, as in life, is indelible.


A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism - 2018人布克·朗赛尔的一部图画小说无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义

Sally Rooney, Normal People, 2018. Courtesy: Faber

While the poet Robin Robertson will win plaudits for his debut The Long Take (Picador, 2018), channelled through an occasionally slick melding of verse and prose, it is the young Sally Rooney who eclipses the competition. A swift second to an inappropriately lauded first (Conversations with Friends, Faber, 2017), Rooney’s Normal People (Faber, 2018) touts a simple conceit: we trace the inseparable Connell and Marianne (at times friends, at others enemies, at other lovers) from a childhood spent in a small Irish town to Trinity College in Dublin. But beneath this unassuming Bildungsroman and the disarming softness through which Rooney speaks, there are universes. I found love and pain in this book in equal measure. Often, I could not discern between the two.

When I wrote that this list mimics our contemporary experience, I did so in good faith but, in my use of ‘our’, I did so with presumption. Whether intimately or otherwise, a clutch of the socio-political anxieties teased forth by these texts – inner-city crime, prison reform, environmental collapse, women’s subjugation, digital fatigue – feel critical to me, a European writer. Thus, I presumed you; thus we; thus ours. Thankfully, my egocentrism provides a neat segue into a discussion of the central problematic of this year’s longlist: its staggering lack of global diversity. Of the 13 nominees, whittled from a record-breaking 171 submissions: five are from the UK, three are from Ireland and the USA respectively, while two hail from Canada. And, while the assembled novelists might voice concerns that feel urgent, as the critic Arifa Akbar questioned shortly after the list was announced: ‘these are Northern Hemisphere anxieties’.


A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism - 2018人布克·朗赛尔的一部图画小说无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义

Esi Edugyan, Washington Black, 2018. Courtesy: Serpent's Tail

I cannot fully support Akbar’s statement: many of the apprehensions floated by these authors are intrinsically human in nature and, in this, may ghost across physical terrains without little knowledge of the changing landscape below. Furthermore, the narratives of slavery, exploitation and relocation that convene within Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black (Serpentine, 2018), the tale of an 11-year-old Bajan slave’s journey from the Caribbean to the Arctic, care little for geography or epoch. But it should be acknowledged that, since 2013, when Man Booker made the decision to widen the entry pool from Commonwealth authors to any writing in English, the prize has developed a disheartening taste for the Euro-American, a result, in part, of American authors colonizing the spots previously reserved for Britain’s former territories. In 2017, the 13-strong long-list included six UK novelists, four from the USA and two from Ireland. In 2016, there were also six from the UK, but five from the US. Admittedly, 2015 showed promise, but in 2014 we were back on track: six British, five American, one Irish. While the decision to expand eligibility promised something more international in scope, an award better positioned to recognize the countless stories being told beyond the walls of the Western canon, the show of faux-inclusivity has heralded little but a recentralization of focus and a barefaced abandonment of the very authors that it was allegedly serving.

While I ardently refuse to support anything related to the Commonwealth, laced as it is with the legacies of imperial and colonialist subjugation, it is hard to contest that the Man Booker guidelines of old ushered into the spotlight mesmerizing writing from far more diverse backgrounds. (Aravind Adiga, Peter Carey, Eleanor Catton, J.M. Coetzee, Kiran Desai, Kazuo Ishiguro, V. S. Naipaul, Ben Okri, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie: close your eyes and point a finger.) But I also find it hard to agree with the 30 publishers who, in February of this year, publicly called for the Man Booker to reinstate its former parameters. To enact such an about-turn would do a disservice to American authors such as Paul Beatty, Ottessa Moshfegh, George Saunders and David Szalay, whose ambitious novels (some shortlisted, others long-, others victorious) burst at the figurative binding with formal experimentation and lashing social critique. 


A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism - 2018人布克·朗赛尔的一部图画小说无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义

Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room, 2018. Courtesy: Jonathan Cape

So, how to proceed? How to ensure that the Booker’s ‘global outlook’ does not reassert the dominance of Euro-American authors but instead amplifies a chorus of international voices? Pitch one involves a decentralizing of the judging panel (of this year’s illustrious five, two are based in New York while three reside in the UK – two of those in London) and a reconsideration of the publishers’ entry quotas, which favour established publishing houses with a history of longlisted authors to the detriment of the younger outlets that champion more radical fictions.

Pitch two would involve the introduction of a rule stipulating that longlists include a number of authors from each represented territory. Counter-arguments to this may well include the word ‘meritocracy’ and perhaps that most haunted of phrases: ‘positive discrimination’. If this is indeed your opinion, ask yourself why the ‘best writing’ might originate from the UK as opposed to, say, subcontinental African countries, Australia or India, which is the second largest publisher of English-language literature in the world. Then peruse the history of the British Commonwealth. Then look to the many wrongs that are still left to right.


A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism - 2018人布克·朗赛尔的一部图画小说无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义

Books in the Man Booker Prize 2018 longlist. Courtesy: Man Booker Prize

When, in February of this year, former Man Booker prize-winners Julian Barnes and Peter Carey criticised the decision to allow American writers to enter the fray, Gaby Wood, literary director of Man Booker, opted for diplomacy: ‘The world is open. We need to hear from everyone’. Actually, it isn’t. It should be, but it isn’t. We are suffering through an era defined by precarity, inequality, division and dislocation and, now more than ever, it is critical that we hear testimony from the fringes of what has naively been defined as the ‘centre of the world’. Fiction might well allow for that. But to do so, it needs institutions such as Man Booker to reassess their priorities and reinvest in transnationalism, diversity and the utterly problematic; to remember what fiction has done, what fiction currently does and what fiction might do. If you want to appear radical, include a graphic novel on a longlist of 13; if you want to be radical, attend to your own shortcomings and build something better.

Endnote: While I cannot claim to be an avid reader of graphic novels, the importance of works such as Art Spiegelman’s MAUS (1980), Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell (1999) and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (2000) cannot be questioned. Thus, I would never begrudge the inclusion of similar titles on longlists such as these. However, if the Man Booker is indeed founded in a desire to unearth those fictions that best reflect and refract our sorry era in a progressive, profound manner, then it is high time that the institution reconsiders its policy that book-length short story collections are ineligible, something that seems farcical when we consider the abundance of rampantly experimental short fiction that has been published in the past few years (and the scarcity of grants and awards available to its writers). Eley Williams, June Caldwell, Claire Louise-Bennett, Leone Ross, Jennifer Rahim, Jenny Zhang, Lydia Davis, David Hayden, Julianne Pachico, Stuart Dybeck, Irenosen Okojie, Camilla Grudova, Marina Enriquez, Akhil Sharma: Ask short stories for the world and they will give you something fleeting, distracted and irreconcilable. They will give you something honest.

Main image: Books in the Man Booker Prize 2018 longlist. Courtesy: Man Booker Prize

Harry Thorne

Harry Thorne is assistant editor of frieze and a contributing editor of The White Review. He is based in Berlin, Germany.

Man Booker Prize
Harry Thorne

《26号人物》2018卷上的一部图画小说《2018人布克·朗塞尔》无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义。Harry Thorne,这也许不是当代文学最耀眼的认可,扎迪·史密斯宣称的“最好的书——在任何媒介中——我读过关于我们当下的时刻”包含了很少的文字。Nick Drnaso的《萨布丽娜》(格兰塔,2018)是一本204页的平面小说,在一个初出茅庐的特朗普地狱中,通过一个失踪女人的冷酷故事,刻画出一种当代环境,净化了亲密、信任和真理。像一只破烂的鸽子张开的手,Drnaso的故事板提供了许多小残酷,我们被一个非个人化的当代世界,仍然致力于让我们无言以对。说到底,拉康主义也许是恰当的。Ni-Draso-SaBrima. JPG A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism - 2018人布克·朗赛尔的一部图画小说无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义 Nick Drnaso,萨布丽娜,2018。礼貌:Granta Drnaso不认为萨布丽娜是一部小说,或者“不认为那些术语”——“我是一个漫画家。”奇怪的是,这本书已经成为第一部被提名为布克奖小说的平面小说。虽然从形式上讲,萨布丽娜与今年的提名人背道而驰,但在一个13强的长名单上,他非常熟悉,它描绘了一个濒临崩溃的世界。这部小说的选择往往是不舒服的,常常是不连贯的,很少是有希望的——这是我们通过痛苦的故事讲述的当代经历——这是唯一的方式。因此,创伤评分高,无论是固有的,造成或重新感觉。Guy Gunaratne在我们疯狂和愤怒的城市(标题,2018)跟踪三名年轻男子,因为他们在伦敦北部的一个48小时的种族骚乱航行。Shahidha Bari写道,Gunalane的焦虑小说“徘徊于真实事件的边缘”,这一短语在今年的提名文本中同样徘徊不前。在准备火星房间(Jonathan Cape,2018)时,Rachel Kushner在美国的一些监狱里度过了时光,而Richard Powers的故事(William Heinemann,2018)在环保主义传奇和低吟的情歌之间徘徊,直到自然的持久辉煌。在《米尔克曼》(Fabter,2018)中,Anna Burn从一个无私的18岁女孩的角度叙述了北爱尔兰的麻烦,但是,在塑造一个国家的条件下,通过多年的个人和公共的痛苦……与沉重、悲伤、恐惧和愤怒重叠。“召唤出一系列国际性的压迫政权和暴力的回响。在我们疯狂和愤怒的城市里,2018岁的Guy GunaRATNION。礼貌:与2017人的“BooBooCo”相比,保罗·奥斯特、Arundhati Roy和Ali Smith都是如此。同时,这位久负盛名的犯罪作家贝琳达·鲍尔和归来的Michael Ondaatje——在1992赢得了布克奖,最近被授予“金布克”(一个一次性的“布克先生”纪念今年的第五十周年纪念日)。那些兜售第一部小说的人。Sophie Mackintosh的针锋相对首次亮相,水疗法(Hamish Hamilton,2018),看到三姐妹逃离现实的岛屿设施,在那里,因为它是从人的刺耳的折磨,“妇女可以是健康的和完整的”。田园诗是装模作样的。由一位国王李尔神父主持,他设计了一个痛苦的疗养计划,岛上传达了一个已知的真理:虐待,就像生活一样,是不可磨灭的。Saly-RooN-Yang-No.JPG WPAP602602IMG Saly鲁尼,正常人,2018。礼貌:费伯,而诗人Robin Robertson将赢得他的首次亮相长时间(PICADOR,2018)喝彩,通过偶尔光滑的诗歌和散文融合,是年轻的Sally Rooney谁黯然失色的竞争。第二次是一个不恰当的称赞(与朋友,费伯,2017),鲁尼的正常人(费伯,2018)吹嘘一个简单的自负:我们追踪不可分割的康奈尔和玛丽安(有时是朋友,在其他的敌人,在其他恋人)从一个小爱尔兰度过的童年。WN到都柏林三一学院。但在这不起眼的成长小说和鲁尼所说的解脱的温柔之下,有宇宙存在。我在这本书中找到了爱和痛苦。我常常无法辨别这两者。当我写到这个清单模仿我们的当代经验时,我真诚地这样做,但是,在我使用“我们”的时候,我是这样推定的。无论是亲密的还是其他的,这些文本所引发的一系列社会政治焦虑——内城犯罪、监狱改革、环境崩溃、女性沦陷、数字疲劳——对我来说是至关重要的,一位欧洲作家。因此,我推定你,因此我们,因此我们。谢天谢地,我的自我中心主义提供了一个很好的片段来讨论今年的长名单的核心问题:它惊人的缺乏全球多样性。在13个被提名者中,从打破记录的171个提交中删减:五个来自英国,三个分别来自爱尔兰和美国,而来自加拿大的两个冰雹。同时,当评论家Arifa Akbar在宣布名单后不久提出质疑时,聚集的小说家们可能会发出一些急切的担忧:“这些都是北半球的焦虑。”ESI EDUGYAN-WAUGIN TRON BLASH JPG WPA6024602IMG ESI EDUGYANG,华盛顿黑色,2018。礼貌:蛇的尾巴,我不能完全支持阿克巴的声明:这些作者所浮现的许多恐惧本质上是人的本性,在这一点上,可能在物理地形上鬼鬼鬼怪,而对下面变化的风景知之甚少。此外,奴隶制、剥削和重新安置在EsEdjyn的华盛顿黑色(蛇纹石,2018)中展开,讲述了一个11岁的巴扬奴隶从加勒比海到北极的旅程,很少关心地理或时代的故事。但应该承认的是,自2013以来,当Man Booker决定将英联邦作家的词汇量扩大到任何英文写作时,该奖项对欧美裔美国人产生了一种令人沮丧的味道,部分原因是美国作家以前殖民了这些地方。为英国前领土保留。2017,13强名单包括六名英国小说家,四名来自美国,2名来自爱尔兰。2016,英国也有六个,但美国有五个。诚然,2015的人有希望,但在2014,我们回到正轨:六英国人,五美国人,一爱尔兰人。虽然扩大资格的决定在一定范围内承诺了更国际化的东西,但一个更好的定位来承认在西方佳能的墙壁之外被讲述的无数故事,虚伪的包容性的表现已经很少,但是焦点的重新集中和赤裸裸的A。那些据说是为之服务的作者。虽然我热切地拒绝支持与英联邦有关的任何事情,但由于帝国主义和殖民主义沦陷的遗存,所以很难抗拒老布克的指导方针进入了更加多样化背景下的聚光灯。(阿维德·阿迪加、彼得·凯里、埃莉诺·卡顿、J.M. Coetzee、基兰·德赛、黑石一雄、V. S. Naipaul、Pig、Yi、Y:闭上眼睛,指指点点)但是我也很难同意这30家出版商,他们在今年二月公开呼吁这个人。恢复原有的参数。实施这样一个转折,会对美国作家如Paul Beatty、Ottessa Moshfegh、George Saunders和David Szalay造成伤害,他的雄心勃勃的小说(有些被列入名单,其他人长了,其他人胜利了)以正式的实验和象征性的社交方式迸发出象征性的约束力。Irace.RaChel-Kuulner-MARS ROM.JPG A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism - 2018人布克·朗赛尔的一部图画小说无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义瑞秋库什纳,MARS室,2018。礼貌:Jonathan Cape,怎么办?如何确保布克的“全球前景”不再重申欧美作家的统治地位,而是放大了国际声音的合唱?其中一个涉及到对评委会的下放(今年的杰出五人,两人总部设在纽约,三人居住在英国——伦敦的两人),并重新考虑出版商的进入配额,这有利于建立有悠久历史的出版社。这些作家的作品损害了那些支持更激进小说的年轻人。第二节将引入一条规则,规定长列表包括来自每个代表区域的许多作者。对此的反驳很可能包括“精英政治”一词,也许最常出现的短语是:“积极歧视”。如果这确实是你的观点,问问你自己,为什么“最好的写作”可能起源于英国,而不是说,例如非洲大陆的第二大非洲国家,澳大利亚或印度,这是世界上第二大的英语文学出版商。然后研读英联邦的历史。然后看看仍然存在的许多错误。MBO-LangLIS-FultSTACK.JPG A Graphic Novel on the 2018 Man Booker Longlist Can’t Hide the Prize’s Euro-American Conservatism - 2018人布克·朗赛尔的一部图画小说无法掩盖获奖的欧美保守主义图书在BooBooCK奖2018 LangList.礼貌:二月布克奖得主,布克奖得主朱利安·巴恩斯和彼得·凯里批评了允许美国作家进入冲突的决定,Gaby Wood,Man Book文学总监


Comments are closed.