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Booker prize to be announced today, 2 Indians in row

Booker prize to be announced today, 2 Indians in row

Aravind Adiga and Amitav Ghosh amongst the forerunners.

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New Delhi : The prestigious Man Booker Prize winner for 2008 will be announced on Tuesday in London.

With two debut novelists including Indian Aravind Adiga in the shortlist along with Amitav Ghosh, the competition looks stiff for the 50,000 pound prize.

All the six books nominated for the Booker Prize this year have some historical theme. The Chair of judges Micheal Portillo says these qualities make the books extremely readable.

Amitav Ghosh's ' Sea of Poppies and Arvind Adiga's debut novel, 'The White Tiger' are the two Indian entries for this year's literary Oscars. Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture, Philip Hensher's 'The Northern Clemency', and Linda Grant's ' The Clothes on Their Backs' are all in contention. The other debutante author is Australian Steve Toltz whose novel A Fraction of the Whole, is also in the race.

“We think this year is good for readability. all these books have human stories broad canvas, a canvas mostly of a historical context,” says Chair of Judges, Man Booker Prize, 2008, Michael Portillo.

There is no unanimity amongst the bookies this time. acc to the latest reports, Ladbrokes have Adiga as their favourite but the other major bookmaker William Hill have veteran Irish author Sebastian Barry as their lead. It will all be revealed later on Tuesday night.

Whatever the winner of the 40th Booker Prize says, victory at the awards ceremony in London is as much about cash as literary kudos.

The annual award for the best novel in English by a writer from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth counts, because it helps the winning book sell tens of thousands of extra copies, while an appearance on the shortlist means thousands more sales.

Little wonder publishers cherish the prize, first held in 1969 to rival France's Prix Goncourt which ensured sales of up to 300,000 copies for the victor.

Publishers of what they describe as literary works say the Booker is important because it ensures space on the shelves not only of bookstores but also supermarkets, which generally focus on more populist fiction.

''If you publish a very literary list, you can't always rely on retail promotion in the supermarkets, and even excellent reviews mean relatively few extra sales,'' said Simon Prosser, publishing director of Hamish Hamilton at Penguin.

''The Booker galvanises retailers into supporting that book,'' added Prosser, who estimated that when ''The Inheritance of Loss'' won the Man Booker in 2006 his publishing house ordered an extra 50,000 hardback copies to be printed to meet demand.

Despite its reputation and commercial importance, which can extend to translation and film rights, the Booker Prize is not always popular among the critics.

Michael Prodger, writing in the Telegraph, suggests the Booker judges got it wrong in all of the last three years and has been ''hit and miss'' throughout the prize's 40-year history.

He predicts that whatever the outcome tomorrow evening, the 2008 panel ''should prepare for a pummelling."

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