Coetzee Misses Opportunity to Make History

South African born author, J.M. Coetzee, did not make the Man Booker Prize short list this year. After winning the award twice, Coetzee was trying to be the first person to win the prize for the third time. To his dismay, he didn’t pull it off this year and here’s why.

Judge and literary critic, John Day, said that, “the shortlist rewarded authors who were willing to take a risk, but this did not mean this favored new writers over established others.” Day probably feels this way because Coetzee’s submission for this year’s award, The Schooldays of Jesus, is a sequel to the previous Man Booker prize winner The Childhood of Jesus.

A sequel to a book has never won the Man Booker prize, which is not surprising considering what the judges are looking for. “That is one our criteria actually – being innovative, being bold, being courageous, a willingness to take risks,” stated judge and chairwoman Amanda Foreman, hammering this point home. No matter how good Coetzee’s book is, no one claims he took any risks in writing it.

Considering the level of competition from Levy’s Hot Milk and Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody ProjectCoetzee is going to have to do better than extending the plot from his previous novel if he wants to wow the judges of the Man Booker. Just because he did not win it this year does not mean he can’t win it again in the future. Let’s see if he can learn from this year’s loss and come up with something even better for the literary world. 


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