Sunday 21 January 2018

Toibin makes Booker shortlist, but isn't 'counting his chickens'

Colm Toibin is one of three Irish authors nominated for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award
Colm Toibin is one of three Irish authors nominated for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award

John Spain Books Editor

The Booker shortlist

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Harvest by Jim Crace

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

IT could be third time lucky for Colm Toibin who was the only Irish author to make the shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize.

Toibin (pictured) has been shortlisted for his short, 104-page novel, 'The Testament of Mary', which tells the story of Jesus from his mother's point of view.

But the highly regarded writer is not holding his breath.

Speaking from the University of Texas in Austin where he is currently the visiting author in the James Michener Centre for Writing, Toibin said: "You would want to be insane to be counting any chickens at this stage.

"I've been on the shortlist twice before, in 1999 with 'The Blackwater Lightship' and in 2004 with 'The Master', both of which were more substantial novels. 'The Testament of Mary' is short, but that's just the kind of book it is. It tells the whole story in a very taut, heightened way and to achieve that intensity meant it could not be longer.

"You never know. It all depends on the judges in any particular year and this year I feel they have been doing a very thorough job, with so many first-time novelists on the longlist.

"I don't think it's necessarily a disadvantage that my novel is a short book and I don't think the judges will see it that way."

Yesterday's shortlist – announced in London – was somewhat disappointing from an Irish perspective because three out of the 13 who were on the longlist this year were Irish, including Colum McCann for 'Transatlantic' and debut author Donal Ryan for 'The Spinning Heart'. But only Toibin has made the shortlist of six.

The short novel – more accurately a novella – may not be substantial enough to take the prize, despite its intensity. The longest book on the shortlist, and one of the favourites, is the 832-page thriller 'The Luminaries' by New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton.

Toibin will be back from Texas in plenty of time to attend the Booker dinner in London next month – "a theatre of cruelty", he calls it, only half joking – at which the winner will be announced live on TV.

Irish Independent

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