Australian novelist Peter Carey who has won the Booker Prize twice before is among the six shortlisted for this year’s award, it was announced on Tuesday.
If he gets it again he would become the first writer to have won it three times.
Carey, who previously won for Oscar and Lucinda (1988) and True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), has been picked this year for Parrot and Olivier in America, a fictional biography of the philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville.
The novel has been widely acclaimed for the scale of its ambition and its "exuberant imagery’’ but the bookies’ favourite for the £50,000 was said to be the London-based novelist Tom McCarthy’s "C", described as the "story of the birth, life and death of Serge Carrefax, an Englishman born in 1898’’. It has been called a "modern-day Ulysses’’ in its approach to the idea of a novel. The Guardian said it was like a "1960s-style anti-novel that's fundamentally hostile to the notion of character and dramatises, or encodes, a set of ideas concerning subjectivity’’.
Another strong contender is Irish writer Emma Donaghue’s Room inspired by the harrowing case of the Austrian girl Elisabeth Fritz girl who was held captive by her father in the basement of their family home for 24 years.
It has been widely praised for its haunting portrayal of a five-year-old boy who has never left the room where he was born and whose only companion is his mother.
Others on the shortlist, pared down from a longlist of 13, include: Andrea Levy (The Long Song), Damon Galgut (In a Strange Room), and Howard Jacobson (The Finkler Question).
Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate who chaired the jury, said the list represented a "variety of styles and themes’’.
"It's been a great privilege and an exciting challenge for us to reduce our longlist of thirteen to this shortlist of six outstandingly good novels. In doing so, we feel sure we've chosen books which demonstrate a rich variety of styles and themes - while in every case providing deep individual pleasures," he said.
The winner will be announced in London October 12.
Last year, the prize was won by Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall.