Australian (Tasmanian) writer Richard Flanagan is one step closer to winning the best-known prize for English language novels after being shortlisted on Tuesday for the Man Booker prize.

His novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which tells the harrowing and poignant story of prisoners of war on the Burma Railway, was named on the six-book shortlist, which also included Joshua Ferris (To Rise Again at a Decent Hour), Karen Joy Fowler (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves), Howard Jacobson (J), Neel Mukherjee (The Lives of Others) and Ali Smith (How to be Both).

Early favourite David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks) was excluded, along six other longlisted novels.

Flanagan, who heard the news about 3am in Seattle, is on a 12-city tour promoting the book in the US where there will be more interest this year, as American authors are eligible for the first time. Ferris and Fowler are both from the US.

Flanagan told Fairfax he was “speechless in Seattle. I’m delighted but it is overwhelming news”. He said he had heard a whisper earlier in the day that he might be on the list, but our call, which woke him, was his first confirmation.

He said The Narrow Road was already in its fourth reprint in the US, where it has been greeted by enthusiastic reviews. The Washington Post described it as “a classic work of war fiction from a world-class writer”.

The reviewer said: “Nothing since Cormac McCarthy’s The Road has shaken me like this – all the more so because it’s based on recorded history, rather than apocalyptic speculation.”

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Mercury: Richard Flanagan short-listed for Man Booker Prize Arts patron Leo Schofield described Flanagan as Australia’s most important literary figure since Patrick White, who was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1973. “We have no other literary figures of that stature in Australia,” Mr Schofield said. “I admire a great many local writers but he’s at another level. “I think he’s very close to being a genius,” he said. He said Flanagan’s work had been translated into close to 30 languages and he was highly regarded around the world, yet had sacrificed a level of fame by choosing to remain in Hobart.

TT MEDIA HERE … as greengrocer Scott Jordan highlights Minister Paul Harriss and the Tasmanian Government’s continued backing of economic lemons in mining and logging (and the UN Human Rights Office calls for withdrawal of Mr Harriss’ anti-protest bill], Vanessa Goodwin drafts Right to Appeal Legislation, and New Alternatives to Suspended Sentences etc, etc, etc …

• James Crotty, in Comments: Go you good thing Flan the Man. When he wins and eventually becomes the next Patrick White, a luminary amongst authors and the subject of authorship, the press, academic and otherwise will pour over his life, upbringing and humble cottages such as the Town Hall in which he composed his works. Academics will flock to Tasmania to re-invigorate their careers from peripheral contact with the muse that succoured the great.

• peter adams, in Comments: James #1. Your comment is as lyrical a read as is “Narrow Road to the Deep North”. Well, almost. My guess is that if Richard moved to America as suggested by Bacon, he would win the Pulitzer Prize.