Paul Beatty becomes first USA author to win the Man Booker Prize
Oct 30 2016 by Francis Osborne
Now the nightmare of Anglocentric purists has come true: the Prize has been won by, heaven forbid, an American!
Paul Beatty became the first USA author to win the Man Booker Prize - the world's most prestigious English-language literary award - for his novel "The Sellout" on Tuesday.
The other contenders are Graeme Macrae Burnet's Scottish murder story "His Bloody Project"; Deborah Levy's tale of mother-child trauma "Hot Milk"; and "All That Man Is", a portrait of masculinity in a fragmented Europe by Canadian-born British novelist David Szalay.
The award, as well as its £50,000 ($61,000) prize, was presented Tuesday night in London by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, at a black-tie dinner whose guests included former winners Ben Okri and A.S. Byatt.
Dr Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, said the 2016 victor was a unanimous decision reached after four hours of deliberation.
The victor was announced at the Guildhall in London, after the Duchess of Cornwall gave a speech on the work of the Booker Prize Foundation and the importance of literacy.
The Sellout was also a timely win given the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, during a US Presidential year, Dr Foreman said.
She added that the year has been a whirlwind with winning the Governor General's Award and being nominated for the Man Booker and Giller Prize.
Beatty's win was announced at a ceremony at London's Guildhall on Tuesday.
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Published in the United States previous year, The Sellout tells the story of a nameless narrator, an African American who grows artisanal marijuana and watermelons in his Los Angeles neighbourhood.
Quite so. The fragmented, disorienting nature of The Sellout's narrative reminded this reader of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, as did the book's ability to be both laugh-out-loud hilarious and genuinely disturbing, often at the same time. That was a book that really blew me away, such a courageous book, such a hard book.
The Sellout took the judges about four hours to reach their unanimous decision.
The novel is narrated by Bonbon - a resident of the fictional "agrarian ghetto" of Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, which has been removed from the map to save California from embarrassment.
The victor will receive 50,000 pounds (C$81,000.) All six finalists will receive 2,500 pounds (C$4,000) and a designer bound copy of their book.
Using scathing humour to address serious themes came naturally to Beatty, who has said in interviews that he finds everything amusing on some level. It's amusing and painful at the same time.
Beatty said readers should think of the novel as a work of fiction rather than exclusively focusing on race. Past winners of this prestigious award were Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel, and Margaret Atwood.