British novelist Sunjeev Sahota on Booker Prize Longlist for ‘China Room’

Indian-origin British novelist Sunjeev Sahota is among 13 authors longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize for fiction for ‘China Room’, a novel described by the judges on Tuesday as a brilliant twist on the immigrant experience. The 40-year-old, whose grandparents emigrated from Punjab in the 1960s, has been previously shortlisted for the 2015 Booker Prize for ‘The Year of the Runaways’ and is a winner of the European Union Prize for Literature in 2017.

His novel ‘China Room’ was chosen from 158 published in the UK or Ireland between October 2020 and September 2021 for the prize open to works by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland. Weaving together two timelines and two continents, ‘China Room’ struck us as a brilliant twist on the novel of immigrant experience, considering in subtle and moving ways the trauma handed down from one generation to the next, the Booker Prize judges note.

In crisp, clean prose, and with a dash of melodramatic action, Sahota turns these heavy themes into something filled with love, hope and humor, they said. Sahota is joined on the 2021 longlist by previous winner British Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro for ‘Klara and the Sun’ and other previously shortlisted authors South African Damon Galut for ‘The Promise’ and American Richard Powers for Bewilderment.’

“One thing that unites these books is their power to absorb the reader in an unusual story, and to do so in an artful, distinctive voice,” said historian Maya Jasanoff, Chair of the 2021 judging panel. Many of them consider how people grapple with the past whether personal experiences of grief or dislocation or the historical legacies of enslavement, apartheid, and civil war. Many examine intimate relationships placed under stress, and through them meditate on ideas of freedom and obligation, or on what makes us human. It’s particularly resonant during the pandemic to note that all of these books have important things to say about the nature of community, from the tiny and secluded to the unmeasurable expanse of cyberspace, she said.


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