Zimbabwe's NoViolet Bulawayo could make history when the Booker Prize winner is revealed on Tuesday, but rival Jim Crace fears the literary contest will have lost some of its character next year.
Bulawayo is the first black African woman to be shortlisted for the £50,000 Booker, for "We Need New Names", the tale of a 10-year-old girl who escapes poverty at home only to find new problems in the United States.
But Crace is among several authors who fear the organisers' decision to admit US writers and those from any other part of the world from next year will degrade the prestigious contest.
While the novel must be an original work in English, the Booker is currently restricted to writers from the Commonwealth and former members Zimbabwe and Ireland.
"For me the great thing about the Booker Prize is that up to now it's been a Commonwealth prize reminding us about shared history," Britain's Crace told an audience at a literary festival this week.
"Not always happy shared history, but there is a solidarity and cousinship between us, England and Ireland ... Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Canada, India, and all of those countries that make up the Commonwealth.
"That's my fear, I am worried about losing that. My hopes are that it will be a triumphant success."
But many will be hoping for victory for Bulawayo, real name Elizabeth Zandile Tshele, who is also the first Zimbabwean to be shortlisted.
"I feel there are so many deserving black women who came before me. So I feel very lucky and honoured, especially as this is my first novel," she told AFP after her nomination last month.
Bulawayo says she doesn't really come from a book family. When she moved to the United States, the family expectation was that she would study law, not creative writing, though she went on to earn an MFA from Cornell University.
Her novel's narrator, Darling, is a young girl in Zimbabwe who spends her days with her friends stealing guavas, playing games, and dreaming of escaping to paradise locations including America, France and Dubai.
Darling seems to win the golden ticket out of Zimbabwe's landscape of poverty and Aids with a fresh start in the US. The distinct clarity of the child's voice has won rave reviews from heavyweight critics around the world.
At just 31, Bulawayo is the youngest Booker contender this year.
Commenting on her inclusion in the shortlist, Bulawayo said: "I didn't even know that my book had been nominated, so [the longlist] was a shock. The shortlist was another shock. Scarier than the first. It's a wonderful recognition and I'm very much encouraged to keep working.
And Regadring the influences on her storytelling she says: "During the (school) holidays, we went to the rural areas where we would meet my grandmother and storytelling was the daily form of entertainment.
"I grew up thinking that it was just normal, that the world was told through stories. And my father was also a storyteller. At school, I'd always be telling stories to my friends.
"I started reading books and found a connection: they were also stories, just like the ones I had heard. It really gives a lot to my voice in that when I write, I think of a listener, not necessarily a reader.
"I think the connection with told stories is more urgent, more true. You get one to two minutes to engage them, which taught me about voice and urgency. Which is why, when I write, my challenge is to write something that the reader can't put down."
Bulawayo would be the fourth African winner if she triumphs at the ceremony in London's Guildhall, after South Africans J.M. Coetzee (1983 and 1999) and Nadine Gordimer (1974) and Nigerian-born Ben Okri (1991).
THE BOOKER SHORTLIST
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Harvest by Jim Crace
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton