Experimental British novel favourite to win Booker

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An experimental novel about a young radio addict in the early 20th century is favourite to win the prestigious Booker Prize for literature Tuesday, bookmakers in Britain said.

Tom McCarthy's "C" tells the story of Serge and is partly inspired by Jean Cocteau's 1949 iconic film "Orphee", in which a car radio transmits messages from the underworld.

The book is 8/15 favourite to win, ahead of Damon Galgut's "In A Strange Room" and Howard Jacobson's "The Finkler Question" on 6/1, according to the latest odds from William Hill.

Emma Donoghue's "Room" is on 7/1 and Andrea Levy's "The Long Song" and Peter Carey's "Parrot And Olivier in America" are on 12/1,

Another bookmaker, Ladbrokes, last week suspended betting after a flurry of wagers on "C".

McCarthy, a British conceptual artist as well as a novelist, told the BBC recently the book was about the emergence of radio, which he compared to the rise of the Internet in the present day.

"You have this wonderfully anarchic period where anybody, mainly teenage boys but loads of people, are just setting up their little DIY radio stations and the air suddenly comes alive with messages going in all directions," he said.

One of the highest-profile awards in English language literature, the annual Booker Prize is awarded for the best work of fiction by an author from the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland or Zimbabwe.

Contenders must have been published in the past year and write in English.

The prize comes with a winner's cheque for 50,000 pounds (77,000 dollars, 60,000 euros) and all but guarantees an upsurge in book sales.

Australian Carey's "Parrot and Olivier in America" is an improvisation on the life of French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, South African Galgut earns his second nomination with "In a Strange Room", while Donoghue, from Ireland, is the youngest nominee on the list at age 40.

Jacobson's "The Finkler Question" is a story of friendship and loss.

And Levy, who achieved international success with "Small Island", calls on her Jamaican background with "The Long Song", the tale of a sugar plantation worker in the last years of slavery.

© 2010 AFP

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