A tale of murder and class warfare in the Scottish Highlands by a little-known novelist is one of the favourites to win this year’s Booker Prize for literature tomorrow.
His Bloody Project, the second novel by Scottish author Graeme Macrae Burnet, has been outselling the other five nominees, leaving its small Glasgow-based publisher struggling to meet demand.
“One of the great side-effects of being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize is the interest that it has created abroad,” Burnet said in an interview before the ceremony for the prestigious English-language literary award.
His novel tells the gritty story of a young and poor tenant farmer who murders the village administrator and his family.
The social hierarchy of 19th-century rural Scotland — dominated by aristocratic landowners — is a key feature of the book.
But its roots stretch far from the small community of Culduie where the novel is set.
“The initial idea, which has been in my head for 30 years, came from the case of Pierre Riviere, a French peasant in the early 19th century who killed three members of his own family and then wrote a rather eloquent account of what he had done,” said Burnet.
“I was just totally fascinated by that,” he said.
In a year where the jury spurned big-name novelists, the bookmakers’ two other favourites are South African-born Briton Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk and Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
Hot Milk is a tale of a torturous relationship between mother and daughter set in a Spanish village, while Canadian Thien’s book is based around a world of classical music and silence in revolutionary China.
Among the other shortlisted novels is Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, a satirical novel set in a fictional neighbourhood of his native Los Angeles, which explores racial equality and the civil rights movement.
US first-time author Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen is a portrait of a disturbed young woman and Canadian-born Briton David Szalay’s All That Man Is was described by judge Jon Day as “a post-Brexit novel for our times”.
Previous winners of the prize include Salman Rushdie for Midnight’s Children and Michael Ondaatje for The English Patient.
Burnet said he was undaunted by the limelight and curious to see how the novel would resonate with different audiences internationally.
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