Esi Edugyan to chair Booker Prize panel

Canadian writer Esi Edugyan will chair the 2023 Booker Prize jury.

Esi Edugyan

The £50,000 prize ($83,636 Cdn) is awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language, published in the U.K. and Ireland. Writers from around the world are eligible.

Edugyan has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice: in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues and again in 2018 for Washington Black. Both these books won Canada’s biggest fiction award, the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

“Stendhal wrote: ‘A novel is a mirror carried along a high road.’ Year after year the Booker Prize encourages us to take sight of ourselves in the lives of others, to slip for the length of a story into different skins, to grapple with unfamiliar worlds that allow us to see our own afresh,” Edugyan said in a press statement. 

“I’m deeply excited for the chance to immerse myself in great storytelling, in its enduring ability to shock, thrill, devastate and console. I am especially delighted to get to do so alongside this brilliant and accomplished panel of judges, whose breadth of experience, viewpoints and vocations will no doubt make for rich conversation.”

Edugyan is one of Canada’s most accomplished writers. In addition to being one of the few two-time winners of the Giller Prize and two-time authors featured on Canada Reads, she also delivered the 2021 CBC Massey Lectures and adapted the series into the nonfiction book Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling. She is also the author of the novel The Second Life of Samuel Tyne. 

Esi Edugyan, Adjoa Andoh, Mary Jean Chan, James Shapiro, and Robert Webb

Joining Edugyan on the jury are British actor, writer and director Adjoa Andoh, British poet Mary Jean Chan, American Columbia University professor James Shapiro, and British actor and writer Robert Webb.

“I am hugely looking forward to working with this lively and lovely panel of readers. They bring to the task of discovering next year’s best fiction a strikingly wide range of knowledge and a shared enthusiasm for storytelling in all its forms,” the Booker Prize foundation director Gaby Wood said in a press statement.

“Esi Edugyan described herself, in her latest book of essays, as ‘a storyteller with an interest in overlooked narratives.’ That’s clear from her two Booker-shortlisted novels, Washington Black and Half Blood Blues, which, though very different from each other, are both magnificent entertainments and subtle acts of reimagining. I have no doubt that her astuteness and calm will bring out the very best in this glorious group.”

The longlist will be announced in July 2023, with the shortlist following in September. The winner will be announced in October.

Esi Edugyan won the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize, a $100,000 literary award, for Washington Black. It’s her second time winning the prize after she took it home in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues.

Last year’s winner was Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka for novel his The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.

Since 2013, authors from any nationality have been eligible. No Canadians were recognized for the 2022 prize. 

Margaret Atwood shared the 2019 prize with British novelist Bernardine Evaristo. Atwood was recognized for her novel The Testaments, and Evaristo for her novel Girl, Woman, Other. 

Two other Canadians have won the prize since its inception in 1969: Michael Ondaatje in 1992 for The English Patient and Yann Martel in 2002 for Life of Pi.