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The Booker nominees: 40 years late

    Thrilled: Elaine Feinstein
    Thrilled: Elaine Feinstein

    Authors Elaine Feinstein and the late Muriel Spark have been nominated for a “lost” Booker Prize alongside 20 other authors whose 1970 novels were published in a year the award missed.

    In 1971, just two years after it began, the Booker Prize ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became, as it is today, a prize for the best novel in the year of publication.

    At the same time, the date on which the award was given moved from April to November.

    As a result of these changes, there was a whole year’s gap when a variety of fiction, published in 1970, fell through the net.

    Man Booker prize judges have now drawn up a list of distinguished writers who would have been eligible and are still in print today.

    The one-off Lost Man Booker Prize is the brainchild of Peter Straus, honorary archivist to the Booker Prize Foundation.

    He said: “I noticed that when Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business was first published, it carried encomiums from Saul Bellow and John Fowles, both of whom judged the 1971 Booker Prize.

    “However, judges for 1971 said it had not been considered or submitted.

    “This led to an investigation, which concluded that a year had been excluded.

    “I am delighted that, even in a Darwinian way, this year, with so many extraordinary novels, can now be covered by the Man Booker Prize.”

    Ms Feinstein, 79, who was nominated for her first novel, The Circle, said: “I’m very surprised and delighted to be nominated.

    “It was hugely important because it was my first novel. I didn’t think it would be a novel at first, I just thought it would be a long poem. It was a turning point for me.”

    Muriel Spark, who was shortlisted in 1969 for her novel The Public Image and in 1981 for Loitering with Intent, has been nominated for her novel The Driver’s Seat.

    The shortlist will be announced in March but, as with the Best of the Booker in 2008, the international reading public will decide the winner by voting via the Man Booker Prize website. The overall winner will be announced in May.

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