Kiwi author Anna Smaill on long list of 13 for Man Booker Prize

Kiwi author Anna Smaill is on the long list of 13 for the Man Booker Prize, with The Chimes.

Kiwi author Anna Smaill is on the long list of 13 for the Man Booker Prize, with The Chimes.

Anna Smaill had a quintessentially Kiwi reaction after she made the long list for literature's most prestigious prize.

"Just dropped in to check my email before bed and ...now can't see sleep in my near future," she wrote on Twitter. "Thank you all for loveliness. Bloody hell."

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On Thursday she was announced on the list of 13 for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for fiction written in English, for her debut novel The Chimes.

Smaill, 36, a poet and novelist, graduated from Auckland University with a masters in English literature, and from Victoria University with a masters in creative writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters.

She now lives in the Wellington suburb Melrose, where she writes in between bringing up her 3-year-old daughter.

The book cover of Anna Smaill's The Chimes.

The book cover of Anna Smaill's The Chimes.

If she wins the top prize she will follow in the footsteps of fellow New Zealand writers Eleanor Catton, who won for The Luminaries in 2013, and Keri Hulme who won for the bone people in 1985.

Smaill was completely surprised by the email from her editor at 11.50pm on Wednesday, enttitled: "Confidential (for the for the next ten minutes)".

"I knew the long list was coming, but it was in the back of my mind because I didn't expect it to be relevant to me.

"I just didn't expect to be on the list, I really didn't ... it's thrilling. I'm so wonderfully happy," she said.

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British newspaper The Independent rated The Chimes as a 2015 publishing highlight. "Will it be the novel of 2015? Watch this space," it said.

In March this year, Fairfax Media asked if Smaill was New Zealand's next Eleanor Catton after the release of The Chimes.

Catton courted controversy after winning the Man Booker for frank statements about the arts and politics in New Zealand, and Smaill said that, if she were to win, she hoped she would be as brave.

"Eli's a wonderful ambassador for literature because she's unswervingly honest, and I hope to say I could carry on in that vein. I think she's very courageous."

Catton said she had not yet read The Chimes but could not wait to do so. "I've been feeling really happy about [Smaill making the long list] all day." 

The Chimes is set in London in a dystopian future when the world is run by mysterious powers.  "There's a hook in that it's about a totalitarian regime that controls the populace through music, in a culture where the written word is banned," she said.

Smaill contends with her 12 international peers for a £50,000 (NZ$117,000) prize.

The list will be whittled down to six on September 15 and the winner will be announced on October 13 in London's Guildhall.

First awarded in 1969, the prize's list of previous winners features many of the literary giants of the last four decades, from Salman Rushdie and Hilary Mantel to Iris Murdoch and Ian McEwan.

2015 BOOKER PRIZE LONG LIST

Bill Clegg (US) Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape)
Anne Enright (Ireland) The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)
Marlon James (Jamaica) A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
Laila Lalami (US) The Moor's Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)
Tom McCarthy (UK) Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) The Fishermen (One, Pushkin Press)
Andrew O'Hagan (UK) The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)
Marilynne Robinson (US) Lila (Virago)
Anuradha Roy (India) Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
Sunjeev Sahota (UK) The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
Anna Smaill (New Zealand) The Chimes (Sceptre)
Anne Tyler (US) A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
Hanya Yanagihara (US) A Little Life (Picador)

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