Two previous Booker Prize winners are among novelists shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.

Sir Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood are in the running to win the prize for a second time after making the final six.

US novelist Lucy Ellmann, who lives in Edinburgh, is also among the six finalists as the shortlist for the annual honour was announced at the British Library in London yesterday.

Sir Salman has made the list for his referential work Quichotte, and Atwood for her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments.

Atwood won the prize for The Blind Assassin in 2000, and Sir Salman claimed the award for Midnight’s Children in 1981.

Judging of Atwood’s work was shrouded in secrecy before its anticipated global release next week.

Her work resulted in an “extraordinarily complex” process of non-disclosure agreements in order for the judging panel to be able to read it, according to Booker chairman Peter Florence.

“The fact there is a book that generates this extraordinary amount of care in the reading world is something to be treasured,” he said.

The novel was offered up through watermarked copies which the judges each held in a safe place to avoid any spoilers from the highly anticipated work leaking out.

The underdog of the shortlist is Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport, which was published by the independent Galley Beggar Press. 

Other shortlisted authors are Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other; Chigozie Obioma for An Orchestra Of Minorities; and Elif Shafak for 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World.

“There are strong cases to be made for all of these books. I would be happy to announce any of these the winner,” Mr Florence said. “They all have novelty, they are genuinely novel.”

Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, added: “It was hard to watch the judges narrow down their longlist to this shortlist: they were so committed to all 13 of the books they’d chosen just over a month ago that the discussion was intense. 

“Still, these six remain extraordinary: they bring news of different worlds; they carry a wealth of lives and voices; they’re in conversation, in various ways, with other works of literature. 

“I think it’s fair to say that the judges weren’t looking for anything in particular – they entered this process with an open mind – but this is what they found: a set of novels that is political, orchestral, fearless, felt. 

“And now, by association, those six will be in fruitful conversation with one another.”

Waterstones fiction buyer Bea Carvalho told The Bookseller that this year’s shortlist is “truly representative of the scope and ambition of this year’s fiction publishing”. 

She also touched on some of the longlisted titles that missed out on being shortlisted, adding: “We’re a bit surprised by some of the omissions, especially Lanny [by Max Porter], which we had pegged as a strong contender since reading it almost a year ago, and Deborah Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything, which has struck a real chord with our customers since publishing last week. 

“Milkman was our bestselling Booker winner in recent years, and the astronomical uplift in sales 
demonstrates the prize’s influence and reach. 

“We’re excited to see the impact that the shortlist news has on the lives of these six brilliant books, all of which would be very deserving winners.”

The panel who will decide the winner of the literary award includes publisher and editor Liz Calder, novelist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo, writer and former barrister Afua Hirsch and composer Joanna MacGregor.

The winner will be announced on October 14.

Last year, the first Northern Irish winner, Anna Burns, claimed the prize for her work on societal coercion of women, Milkman.