Paul Beatty’s ‘The Sellout,’ Ottessa Moshfegh’s ‘Eileen,’ and J.M. Coetzee’s ‘The Schooldays of Jesus’ Longlisted for Man Booker Prize


The Man Booker Prize for Fiction now has its 2016 longlist. It sees the work of Paul Beatty, Ottessa Moshfegh, J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Strout and nine others being praised as literary achievements. Amanda Foreman, the chair of judges, said of the 13 novels in total that’ve been named:

The range of books is broad and the quality extremely high. Each novel provoked intense discussion and, at times, passionate debate, challenging our expectations of what a novel is and can be. From the historical to the contemporary, the satirical to the polemical, the novels in this list come from both established writers and new voices. The writing is uniformly fresh, energetic and important. It is a longlist to be relished.

Coetzee happens to be in the running to win his potential third Booker Prize. (He was the first author to win two, after his novel Disgrace won in 1999, following a 1983 win for Life & Times of Michael K). His longlisted novel has actually not yet been released — titled The Schooldays of Jesus, it’ll first be published in the UK in September, and won’t even be released in the States until February 21, 2017. According to the cryptic and strange official description on Penguin’s website, it’s an allegory about a young boy named David who is enrolled at the “Academy of Dance,” dons some golden slippers and therein learns to “call down the numbers from the sky” while also learning some hard truths about adults.

The Guardian notes that one longlisted novel — Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project — which is a crime thriller, is a major surprise due its publication via a crime-fiction oriented (very) small press. (Per Electric Literature, there are five books in total from independent presses.) The book — whose first chapter can be read here — is set in 1869, and is about a teenager who’s committed a triple murder, and it’s more about the mystery of his motivation than whether or not he’s the perpetrator.

Paul Beatty’s acclaimed satirical novel, The Sellout, which former Flavorwire writer Alison Herman praised for its “electric, absurd approach,” and NPR called maybe “the first truly great satirical novel of the century,” has also been listed. The book is about a black man whose father is killed by the police, who then on a small scale reinstates slavery in his hometown of Dickens and brings back segregation.

Ottessa Moshfegh — whose short stories had been often been published in The Paris Review — released her first novel, Eileen, last year, and that’s also, excitingly, on the list. The New England-set book sees a woman who takes care of her alcoholic father by night and works at a prison by day who gets involved with a charismatic new social worker at the prison, a relationship that goes to dark and unexpected places.

The others on the longlist are: Elizabeth Strout’s My Name Is Lucy Barton, A.L. Kennedy’s Serious Sweet, David Means’ Hystopia, Virginia Reeves’ Work Like Any Other, Wyl Menmuir’s The Many, Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk, David Szalay’s All That Man Is, Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing, and Ian Mcguire’s The North Water; the shortlist will be announced on September 13.

The 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction went to Marlon James for A Brief History of Seven Killings.