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Four American novelists on Booker Prize longlist

Four Americans made the longlist Wednesday for the 2014 Booker Prize for Fiction, which has opened up the field for the first time to novelists from outside the Commonwealth.

LONDON: Four Americans made the longlist Wednesday for the 2014 Booker Prize for Fiction, which has opened up the field for the first time to novelists from outside the Commonwealth. The 13-strong list for the prize, one of the highest-profile awards in English-language literature, included six authors from Britain, four from the United States, two from Ireland and one from Australia.

"This is a diverse list of ambition, experiment, humour and artistry," said philosopher A. C. Grayling, the chair of the judges. "The novels selected are full of wonderful stories and fascinating characters. "The judges were impressed by the high quality of writing and the range of issues tackled -- from 1066 to the future, from a prisoner of war camp in Thailand, to a dentist's chair in Manhattan, from the funny to the deeply serious, sometimes in the same book."

Judges whittled down the 154 books put forward by British publishers. The longlist includes 2010 winner Howard Jacobson for J, plus two previously shortlisted authors: Ali Smith, for How to be Both and David Mitchell, for The Bone Clocks. The four Americans longlisted are Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Siri Hustvedt and Richard Powers.

The Booker Prize was until now awarded each year for the best original full-length novel written in English by a citizen of the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland or Zimbabwe. But this year the judges widened the field to any author writing originally in English, so long as their novel is published in Britain within the 12-month entry period. By broadening the competition, the prize is "reinforcing its standing as the most important literary award in the English-speaking world," said Jonathan Taylor, who chairs the Booker Prize Foundation.

"After all the fears about a US-dominated list, the number of British writers comes as a surprise, although the absence of any authors from Africa or Asia is perhaps the more striking aspect," said Jonathan Ruppin of the Foyles book shop chain. The winner receives £50,000 (US$85,000) and the award all but guarantees an upsurge in book sales and worldwide readership.

New Zealand author Eleanor Catton won the 2013 prize with her novel The Luminaries. This is the 46th year of the prize, which began in 1969.

Bookmaker William Hill makes Irish writer Joseph O'Neill the favourite to take the prize at 4/1, while Mitchell is the 5/1 second-favourite. The shortlist of six titles will be announced on September 9, with the winner revealed at a ceremony in London's Guildhall on October 14.

2014 Booker Prize longlist:

Joshua Ferris (USA) -- To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

Richard Flanagan (AUS) -- The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Karen Joy Fowler (USA) -- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Siri Hustvedt (USA) -- The Blazing World

Howard Jacobson (GBR) -- J

Paul Kingsnorth (GBR) -- The Wake

David Mitchell (GBR) -- The Bone Clocks

Neel Mukherjee (GBR) -- The Lives of Others

David Nicholls (GBR) -- Us

Joseph O'Neill (IRL) -- The Dog

Richard Powers (USA) -- Orfeo

Ali Smith (GBR) -- How to be Both

Niall Williams (IRL) -- History of the Rain

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