Winner of Man Booker announced
For the first time in 2014, the Man Booker Prize decided to allow nominations from American authors, two shortlisted for the prize which was awarded yesterday. The 46th yearly event allows any novel published in English to qualify. The rules on American and Standard English writing, which differ, was not discussed. There have been some critics of this, mentioned later below.
The candidates were Brits Howard Jacobson, Ali Smith and Neel Mukherjee and two Americans, Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler.
The Man Booker 2014 went to Richard Flanagan, an Australian author for depicting a “magnificent novel of love and war” for The Narrow Road to the Deep North, including aspects of his father’s criminal past. He went on to assist Japan with the building of its prominent railways. He passed away at the age of 98 when Flanagan emailed his final draft to his publisher. As his sixth novel, Flanagan wrote five drafts over twelve years before finally pushing forward. He added –
“We carried many incommunicable things and I realised at a certain point … that I would have to write this book.”
He also emphasised that the personal references did not make the novel ‘his father’s book’ but asked him questions to relate to such material of a sensitive nature.
Flanagan also pockets £50,000 in prize money which he planned to use on daily instances and getting through as he was not wealthy enough and once considered working in Australia’s coal mines. He had also been a screenwriter on director Baz Luhrmann’s Australia movie.
“This prize money means I can continue to be a writer”
As an outsider to win, Flanagan was boosted by the quality of writing and narrative structure that made an epic success, including by critics.
Chair of the prize and philosopher AC Grayling had this to say of the winner,
“an absolutely superb novel, a really outstanding work of literature”.
Previous winner Peter Carey was not thrilled with the decision from American storytellers to enter the prize pool. He said that it was “unimaginable” that the American Pulitzer Prize would ever allow the same for British writers to be considered. He felt that the creativity and legitimacy of Australian and Irish writers would also effectively be squeezed out along with Brits in the Man Booker selection process.
Due to the decision for foreign inclusion, a sixth judge was also installed on the panel. The judges were academics Jonathan Bate and Sarah Churchwell, neuroscientist Daniel Glaser, writer and journalist Erica Wagner and former director of literature at the British Council, Alastair Niven.
Deserving winner Flanagan admitted that Australia itself didn’t fully recognise the Man Booker as anything big or interesting.
“In Australia the Man Booker prize is sometimes seen as something of a chicken raffle. I just didn’t expect to end up the chicken.”
The prize was presented by the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
For the Man Booker, it is an fantastic prize for British literature. It’s problem is not necessarily foreign inclusion but instead its outreach. This week alone the only ‘advertising’ it sought was to feature all the writers on BBC’s Newsnight programme. The wider community of London and the country as a whole, let alone internationally was snubbed. None could really sink their teeth into it and many don’t even know what it is. Even for lovers of the prize and books this neglected them. Those readers felt annoyed as some had not known when the event was on and who was up for the prizes. Whilst Man Booker made it public, to all in the public domain felt it was a very secret affair likened to an elitist club of nobodies. That’s something Man Booker has suffered for at least three years and clearly needs to work on if it is ever to be taken legitimately. One last perspective is that hopefully this may lead the Pulitzer Prize to begin recognising British novels alongside Americans. This will undoubtedly strengthen the brand and its notoriety which Man Booker attempted to do,, but failed to include them most important selection of people, its readers.