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British-Indian Sunjeev Sahota’s ‘China Room,’ Sri Lankan Anuk Arudpragasam’s ‘A Passage North’ on Booker Longlist

British-Indian Sunjeev Sahota’s ‘China Room,’ Sri Lankan Anuk Arudpragasam’s ‘A Passage North’ on Booker Longlist

  • “The Booker Dozen,” unveiled on July 27, also includes Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Klara and the Sun,” and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Powers’ “Bewilderment.”

British-Indian author Sunjeev Sahota’s “China Room,” and Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam’s “A Passage North,” are among 13 novels long-listed for this year’s Booker Prize. The 2021 longlist or “The Booker Dozen” was unveiled on July 27 and was chosen from 158 novels published between Oct. 1 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021. The Booker Prize for Fiction is open to works by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

“China Room,” inspired in part by Sahota’s own daily history, follows two characters—a teenage bride in the 1920s and a recovering addict in the 1990s—across generations and continents, from Punjab to England, in a moving portrait of family secrets, intergenerational trauma, and the search for freedom.

This is Sahota’s second nomination in six years. His novel, “The Year of the Runaways” was shortlisted for the Booker in 2015.

“China Room” has been garnering rave reviews. Claire Messud of Harper’s Magazine calls it “precise and exhilarating.” She describes Sahota as “a restrained stylist whose details bloom in the imagination.” Mark Athitakis of USA Today says “China Room” is “powerfully imagined,” while Kevin Canfield of Star-Tribune calls it “a powerful tale of two relatives fighting painful battles in India, seven decades apart.” And for Samantha Schoech of The San Francisco Chronicle, “China Room” is “an intimate page-turner with a deeper resonance as a tale of oppression, independence, and resilience.”

Sahota is the author of “Ours Are the Streets” and “The Year of the Runaways,” which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Dylan Thomas Prize, and was awarded a European Union Prize for Literature. In 2013, he was named one of Granta’s twenty Best of Young British Novelists of the decade. He lives in Sheffield, England, with his family.

Arudpragasam’s “A Passage North” is “a searing novel of longing, loss, and the legacy of war,” about a young man who journeys into Sri Lanka’s war-torn north. NPR, in its review, says the book is “a quiet elegy for lives lost to civil war,” and The Guardian calls it “a profound meditation on suffering . . . survivor’s guilt and war’s aftermath.”

In its review, The New York Times says that in “A Passage North, Arudpragasam uses “sentences of unusual beauty and clarity” to observe even the most mundane of actions . . . with an attention so absolute it feels devotional.”

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Arudpragasam was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He studied philosophy in theU.S., receiving a doctorate at Columbia University. His first novel, “The Story of a Brief Marriage,” was translated into seven languages, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. He currently divides his time between India and Sri Lanka.

Other authors on this year’s list include Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Klara and the Sun”; Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Powers’ “Bewilderment”; Rachel Cusk’s “Second Place”; Damon Galgut’s “The Promise”; Nathan Harris’ “The Sweetness of Water”; Karen Jennings’ “ An Island”; Mary Lawson’s “A Town Called Solace”; Patricia Lockwood’s “No One is Talking About This”; Nadifa Mohamed’s “The Fortune Men”; Maggie Shipstead’s “Great Circle”; and Francis Spufford’s “Light Perpetual.”

The shortlist of six books will be announced on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The 2021 winner will be announced on Nov. 3.

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