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Nairobi-born British Indian debutante novelist Chetna Maroo in race for Booker

London, Nov 27, 2023- Nairobi-born Chetna Maroo, who is of Indian origin and a resident of London, is one of the six novelists shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize, whose winner will be named at a glittering ceremony in East London on Sunday, 9 p.m. GMT (Monday, 2:30 a.m. IST).

Since its inception in 1969, the 50,000 pound prize has been won by six writers of Indian descent. They are V.S. Naipaul (1971), Salman Rushdie (1981, plus the Booker of Bookers in 1993 and Best of Bookers in 2008), Arundhati Roy (1997), Kiran Desai (2006), Aravind Adiga (2008), and Gitanjali Shree (2022, International Booker Prize).

Maroo is in the fray with her debut novel, “Western Lane” (Picador), which she says took her three years to write and “sees the world through the eyes of 11-year-old Gopi”.

“She and her sisters have recently lost their mother,” says Maroo, quoted in the Booker Prize website. “Their Pa is bereft and struggling to parent his daughters. At the same time, the girls’ aunt and uncle watch the family, hoping to help Pa by taking one of the girls to raise as their own.”

Looking back to her writing experience, Maroo says: “As I was writing, I was feeling my way. I didn’t have a plot or outline for the whole novel, but I had a sense that the story would turn on this one question: Would Pa bring himself to let one of his daughters go?”

Explaining her creative process, Maroo says: “I write slowly, the first pages in longhand, then typing. I usually try to get each sentence and paragraph sounding right before I go on, reading and editing from the beginning of the story.

“My own process seems unwise to me because I know I’ll eventually cut sections that I have spent weeks or months going over, but I have no other way. I have to trust that the work will benefit in the end from the rhythm and slow quality of this attention.”

The other contenders for the Booker Prize are Canadian writer and scholar Sarah Bernstein (“Study for Obedience”), the other debutant on the list, Jonathan Escoffery (“If I Survive You”), the American Professor of English Paul Harding (“This Other Eden”), acclaimed Irish novelist Paul Lynch (“Prophet Song”), and Paul Murray (“The Bee Sting”), who’s also an Irishman. (Agency)

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