Durham University Assistant Professor of English Studies, Sunjeev Sahota has made the longlist of the literary award, The Booker Prize for Fiction, with his novel China Room. Mr Sahota has taught creative writing to undergraduates at Durham since 2019.
Focusing on a village in Punjab, the novel entwines the story of a child bride in 1929 with the story of her British descendent, who returns in 1999 to his great-grandmother’s village.
Mr Sahota has been nominated for the prize once before. In 2015, Mr Sahota was shortlisted for his second novel The Year of the Runaways. The author has also won several awards for this novel, including the European Union Literature Prize.
Maya Jasanoff, Chair of the Booker Prize panel of judges, noted that many of the books nominated “consider how people grapple with the past”, and said that “it’s particularly resonant during the pandemic to note that all of these books have important things to say about the nature of community”.
The Booker Prize is awarded to one novel each year written in English, and published in Britain or Ireland. Four of the writers nominated this year are American. In the past, publishers have challenged the award’s inclusion of US authors, a decision that was made in 2014.
In 2018, a letter from 30 industry figures warned of the change “allowing the dominance of Anglo-American writers at the expense of others” and worried of a “homogenised literacy future”.
The award responded in a statement that their mission “cannot be constrained or compromised by national boundaries”.
Image: Durham University