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Jeet Thayil’s ‘Narcopolis’ in Booker Prize shortlist

Indian author Jeet Thayil has been named in this year’s shortlist for the £50,000 Man Booker Prize.

The 53-year-old poet from Kerala was nominated for his debut novel ‘Narcopolis’, a semi-autobiographical tale about the opium and heroin dens of Mumbai.

Thayil was shortlisted alongside previous winner Hilary Mantel (‘Bring up the Bodies’), comedian and author Will Self (‘Umbrella’), Deborah Levy (‘Swimming Home’), another first time author Alison Moore (‘The Lighthouse’) and Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng (‘The Garden of Evening Mists’).

‘Narcopolis’ has been hailed by critics with the Independent describing the novel as “outstanding” and “ingenious” while the Guardian called the book a ‘blistering debut’.

A self-confessed former drug addict, Mr. Thayil described Narcopolis in an interview as “Bombay’s secret history” as distinct from its “official” history of “money and glamour.” “You can sanitise…as much as you like, but…can’t get rid of the grime,” he told the interviewer.

If Thayil wins, he will join a select group of Indian and Indian-born Booker winners  such as Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai.

Peter Stothard, Chairman of the judging panel, said the books were selected for their “pure power of prose”.

The panel, which comprised academic and writer Bharat Tandon, historian Amanda Foreman, critic Dinah Birch and actor Dan Stevens, was “exhilarated by the vigour and vividly defined values”.

“After re-reading an extraordinary longlist of twelve, it was the pure power of prose that settled most debates. We loved the shock of language shown in so many different ways and were exhilarated by the vigour and vividly defined values in the six books that we chose – and in the visible confidence of the novel’s place in forming our words and ideas,” he said.

Pointing out that the judges were “considering novels, not novelists”, Sir Peter disclosed that it took them barely three-and-a-half hours to finalise the list.

The Man Booker Prize will be held October 16 at London’s Guildhall.

– Prins Deutermeyer

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