The winner of Britain's prestigious Booker Prize will be announced yesterday from a diverse shortlist of novels covering topics from South African apartheid to female pilots and social media. This year's finalists vying for the prize at a ceremony in London from 1915 GMT include books by authors from South Africa, Britain, Sri Lanka and the United States.

South African playwright Damon Galgut, 57, is tipped to win with his novel "The Promise" about a white family with a farm outside Pretoria. Covering the late apartheid era through to Jacob Zuma's presidency, the book shows the family's growing disintegration as the country emerges into democracy. The New Yorker called it "remarkable", while South Africa's Sunday Times said "it's astonishing how much history Galgut packs into this short novel".

The prize, whose previous recipients include Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel, is one of the leading literary awards for novels written in English. The winner receives a £50,000 ($68,000) prize as well as a career-changing boost in sales and public profile.

Galgut is one of two previously shortlisted authors, along with US writer Richard Powers, 64, whose novel "Bewilderment" is about an astrobiologist struggling to cope with his young son's behavioral problems. Another US writer, Patricia Lockwood, 39, was nominated for her debut novel, "No One Is Talking About This," featuring a 30-something obsessed with social media who has to deal with a shocking medical diagnosis. Other books look back at 20th-century history.

Sri Lankan writer Anuk Arudpragasam, 33, in his second novel, "A Passage North", focuses on the traumatic legacy of the country's almost three-decade civil war that ended in 2009. "The Fortune Men", by British-Somali author Nadifa Mohamed, 40, is based on the true story of a Somali sailor wrongly convicted of murder in Cardiff's multicultural port in the 1950s. "Great Circle", by US novelist Maggie Shipstead, 38, tells the story of a fictional female pilot hoping to fly around the globe pole-to-pole, interwoven with first-person narrative from a Hollywood starlet playing her role.

This year's televised ceremony at the BBC's Broadcasting House in London will be attended by all the shortlisted authors, after COVID restrictions led to video appearances last year. The ceremony will include a pre-recorded conversation between Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and a long-term Booker advocate, and last year's laureate Douglas Stuart, 45, about how winning the prize for his novel "Shuggie Bain" has affected his life. - AFP