The Booker Prize shortlist shows writers “stepping up” to tackle issues in a political age, according to the chairman of judges.
Peter Florence, founder of the Hay Festival, said that the six-strong shortlist deals with an “ultra-political” period.
On the day the final contenders for the literary prize were announced, he said that literature was a defiant antidote to the despair seen on the news.
The judge believes that the shortlisted Sir Salman Rushdie “carries a lot of stuff”, Margaret Atwood has engaged with modern society, and that all contenders are grappling with political issues.
He said: “They are all deeply political books. They deal with people in particular contexts of difficulty, repression, of the struggle for individual freedom and expression.
“Cometh the hour. I think writers are stepping up all over.
“There were another 40 or 50 books which also stepped up, across the world, which said ‘this is what it means to be alive and be resilient’. And that is a heroic thing.
“It’s also a wonderful sign of the times.
“You can be defeated by despair quite easily by watching the news. Read more, we’ve discovered, is the answer.
“We live in an ultra-political age.”
Mr Florence is joined on the panel of judges by editor Liz Calder, novelist and film-maker Xiaolu Guo, writer and former barrister Afua Hirsch, and composer Joanna MacGregor.