'Me Cheeta,' you finalist for Man Booker Prize
A.S. Byatt’s Victorian-era novel The Children’s Book and Nobel winner J.M. Coetzee’s fictionalized memoir Summertime are among the 13 fiction titles selected as finalists for the U.K.’s prestigious Man Booker Prize this year. But both were upstaged by another meta-autobiography that sneaked its way into awards contention: Me Cheeta, the supposed memoir of the chimpanzee who starred in Tarzan films of the 1930s and ’40s (it was published in the U.S. in March). Written by James Lever, the book sends up the over-the-top lifestyle of golden-era Hollywood. “I’m delighted that after a long process of trying to sell it deadpan as work of non-fiction by a chimp that the Booker judges have accepted it as a novel,” Lever told The Daily Telegraph. (Cheeta himself apparently had no comment.)
The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced Oct. 6 (a short list of five titles will be announced Sept. 8). Other longlisted titles include Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, William Trevor’s Love and Summer, and Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger. Coetzee, a two-time winner, is regarded as the early favorite to take an unprecedented third prize for Summertime, the final volume in a trilogy of semiautobiographical works (due to be published in the U.S. in late October). But something tells me — call it primate instinct — that his fictional alter ego is still very much human.