If 2020 has shown anything, it is that the word “unprecedented” can be overused. Yet if there were an appropriate time to use the word just once more, it would be Hilary Mantel’s feature on the Booker prize longlist, putting her in the running to win for an entirely unprecedented third time.
Mantel’s most recent novel, which follows the final years of Cromwell in 900 pages worth of detail, is one of thirteen others which are on the longlist for this year’s £50,000 prize. According to the chair of judges, Margaret Busby, Mantel’s “masterful exhibition of sly dialogue and exquisite description brings the Tudor world alive”.
Mantel’s previous two works in the trilogy were awarded the Booker prize in 2009 and 2012, respectively. She is among three other writers who have won the award twice, including Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey, and JM Coetzee. As yet, no writer has won the award thrice.
The author said that while “it will be cast in terms of a disaster if I don’t win it again”, she would not consider losing a snub.
The longlist, which has been selected from 162 novels, includes Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road, considered by judges to be “a very human tale of redemption”. Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body, a sequel to her 1988 work, Nervous Conditions is also on the list.
Brandon Taylor’s work, Real Life, was considered by judges to be “a deeply painful, nuanced account of microaggressions, abuse, racism, homophobia, trauma, grief and alienation”.
A shortlist of the six final books will be unveiled on 15 September, and the winner will be announced in November.