I always enjoy going to events at the Southbank Centre in London as they often feature discussions with some of the best authors in the world. In the second half of October they are hosting the London Literature Festival which is in its 13th year. Among the events featured are two writers currently shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize and this is your chance to win tickets to see them.

Bernardine Evaristo will be in conversation with Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi on October 20th: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/138680-bernardine-evaristo-jennifer-nansubuga-makumbi-2019

Elif Shafak will be in conversation with Louise Doughty on October 22nd: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/138293-louise-doughty-and-elif-shafak-conversation-2019

I’ve been following the prize closely this year and have now read all six shortlisted novels. In my opinion, two of the strongest contenders are Evaristo and Shafak. So, to celebrate this year’s London Literature Festival and the Booker Prize, I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to each event as well as a copy of each book. This is a great opportunity to get a more in-depth personal understanding of the authors and their excellent novels.

To enter, simply comment below with the name of the author whose event you’d like to attend and contact details (either an email address or social media handle). The giveaway ends on October 6th after which I’ll randomly select two winners for these events. T&Cs listed below. Good luck!

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T&Cs:

1.The prize will consist of two tickets to 'Bernardine Evaristo & Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi' on Sunday 20 October at Southbank Centre's Purcell Room + one copy of Bernardine Evaristo's novel Girl, Woman, Other. 

A separate entry will be awarded two tickets to 'Louise Doughty and Elif Shafak in Conversation' on Tuesday 22 October at Southbank Centre's Purcell Room + one copy of Elif Shafak's novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World  

2.There is no purchase necessary to enter. 

3. The prize draw opens September 29th and closes October 6th, 23:59. 

4. The winner will be contacted directly by Southbank Centre.

5. The prize draw is open to residents of the UK aged 18 or over except employees of Southbank Centre, their families, or anyone professionally connected to the giveaway either themselves or through their families.

6. The winner will be required to provide a contact email for Southbank Centre to facilitate transfer of the prize. Contact details will not be used for marketing purposes unless there is opt in and will not be shared with any third party except for the purpose of delivering the prize 

7. The prizes are as stated in the competition text, are not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. Tickets are not transferable to any other London Literature Festival event or any other Southbank Centre event

8.The prize will be allocated in the winner's name and must be collected by the winner in person at Southbank Centre

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The Booker Prize shortlist has been announced and here are the six novels!

I’m ecstatic to see “Ducks, Newburyport” included! It’s a hilarious and immersive story and the narrator is really an everyman/everywoman of our time. Also thrilled to see “Girl, Woman, Other” as its filled with such rich tales and characters who make me want to reread the novel to better understand this wonderful latticework of storytelling.

Also very happy to see “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World” as its such a moving tale about marginalized people’s lives. I have to admit, I wasn’t as struck with the story in “An Orchestra of Minorities” as some other people have been. It’s creative storytelling and a poignant tale, but the distinct narrative voice grew irritating and felt too grandiose to me.

I’m geekily proud to have guessed 4 of the 6 novels correctly as I discussed in my video about recent Booker Prize reading. As with all book prize lists, there will be some novels I’m sad didn’t make the cut. Particularly “Lost Children Archive” since this novel was also only longlisted for the Women’s Prize. It’s a shame that this tremendous novel probably won’t end up winning any major prize. It’s also a shame “Lanny” or “Frankissstein” didn’t make the list because these novels are so audacious and innovative in their storytelling making them such fun and so clever. Then there is the meditative brilliance of “Night Boat to Tangier” and I’m sad that Kevin Barry won’t be getting wider recognition.

I still have to read “Quichotte” & “The Testaments”, but having just reread “The Handmaid’s Tale” I’m so excited to read Atwood’s new novel!

What do you think about this list? Have you read any? Will you read them now? What novel do you want to win?!

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Although I very much enjoyed Elif Shafak’s previous novel “Three Daughters of Eve”, I was initially hesitant to read her new novel because the subject sounded so depressing. “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World” recounts the final thoughts of its central character Leila after she’s been murdered and left in a dumpster. Scientists speculate that the brain remains active for a number of minutes after a person’s heart stops so the first part of the novel captures her final memories and reflections. As the clock ticks down to the inevitable expiration of her consciousness we follow her journey from being born to a religiously conservative man with two wives in the provinces of Turkey to her life as a prostitute in Istanbul where she becomes known as Tequila Leila. Along the way she meets five vital friends. These people form a network of mutual support to each other amidst strenuous circumstances and social rejection. We’re also given brief glimpses into these five people’s experiences of alienation.

While I admire the nobility of a novelist who sympathetically gives voice to the many voiceless represented in this novel it presents a lot of difficult subject matter including child abuse, religious extremism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, the plight of immigrants, poverty and sexual slavery. I also felt uncertain at first because in the first section of the book it feels like each friend of Leila’s self-consciously represents a different downtrodden community. In her attempt to make visible a full spectrum of alienated people Shafak risks turning her characters into tokens rather than fully realised individuals. But ultimately I found this novel came together and worked very effectively for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Leila’s personality and resiliency shine through her tumultuous journey. It’s a pleasure seeing her vibrant character come out in scenes where she radiates an energy and creative persistence amidst very challenging situations. This gives the story an engaging momentum. Secondly, the later part of the book is concerned with her friends coming together to memorialize Leila when the state refuses to do so after burying her in a “cemetery of the companionless” amidst many other marginalized unmourned people. The idiosyncratic personalities of these five character emerge in their interactions with each other as they form a wild plan to pay tribute to their beloved friend. I felt these aspects of the novel made it a riveting and convincing read rather than just a worthy exercise in raising social awareness for the disenfranchised citizens of Turkey.

It’s not surprising that Shafak is preoccupied with issues to do with social stigma in modern-day Turkey. As an activist and artist she’s been put on trial by the Turkish government for ‘insulting Turkishness’ in her writing and Shafak wrote a moving article here describing the political struggles she’s encountered. I admire that she’s not only chosen to engage with such difficult issues being faced by people who are being persecuted and silenced, but she’s skilfully crafted a story which draws you right into the heart of their plight and makes them come alive in a way I found powerful and moving.

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesElif Shafak
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