“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.
“In crisp, clean prose, and with a dash of melodramatic action, Sahota turns these heavy themes into something filled with love, hope and humour.”
This is how the Booker Prize judges describe Sunjeev Sahota’s longlisted entry.
The 40-year-old novelist, 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 was chosen from 158 published in the UK or Ireland between October 2020 and September 2021 for the open to works by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.
"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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This year’s panel included writer and editor Horatia Harrod, actor Natascha McElhone; twice Booker-shortlisted and professor Chigozie Obioma, and writer and former Archbishop Rowan Williams.
The shortlist of six books will be announced in London on September 14, with the shortlisted authors each set to receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The 2021 winner, to receive £50,000, will be announced on November 3 in an award ceremony held in partnership with the BBC at Broadcasting House’s Radio Theatre.