Booker Prize for Fiction 2019 goes to Bernadine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood

Booker prize for fiction

The Booker Prize for fiction announced it’s (breath-seizing, tension-packed event) winners on Monday, the 14th of October after a long 10-month journey.

The announcement was preceded by a screening of more than 140 entries before the judges narrowed down to a shortlist which included Lucy Ellmann’s “Ducks, Newburyport,” Chigozie Obioma’s “An Orchestra of Minorities,” Salman Rushdie’s “Quichotte,” Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World,” Bernadine Evaristo’s “Girl, Woman, Other,” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Testament”, a choice which was further shrunk to “The Testament” by Margaret Atwood and “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernadine Evaristo at which the judges reached a deadlock.

The rules of the Booker Prize for Fiction which has been in structure since 1993 states that only one book is allowed to emerge the winner. This single rule proved to be a hard weight for the judges of 2019:

Peter Florence, Chair of the Judges:

“In the room today we talked for five hours about books we love. Two novels we cannot compromise on. Both phenomenal books that will delight readers and will resonate for ages to come.”

Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation:

“Over an agonizing five hours, the 2019 Booker Prize judges discussed all of the much-loved books on their shortlist and found it impossible to single out one winner. They were not so much divided as unwilling to jettison any more when they finally got down to two and asked if they might split the prize between them.

On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them. They left the judging room happy and proud, their twin winners gesturing towards the six they would have wanted, had it been possible to split the prize any further.”

According to reports, the judges’ decision was rejected twice on the grounds of flouting the rules and it was only on the 3rd submission after about five agonizing hours, with the judges ruminating over their decision and still at a locked-horn, did the Booker Prize for Fiction trustees eventually bend over to let the judges’ decision takes precedence. It was an interesting case of “Vox Populi Vox Dei” the voice of the people, is the voice of God.

The book “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernadine Evaristo, Margaret Atwood’s “The Testament” won the highly coveted Booker Prize for Fiction, a feat that has not been seen since 1992 when Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth respectively won it.

Margaret Atwood with Bernadine Evaristo

Bernadine Evaristo

It will interest you to know that Bernadine is the first African woman to win the Booker prize and we are totally in sync with the author who says that she hopes to see more of this narrative:

“ I hope that honour doesn’t last too long,” She said.

Bernadine has been described as a woman of Anglo-Nigerian heritage; born to a Nigerian father and American mother. With 7 other works of fiction to her pouch, it is her pattern to write about Africans in the Diaspora. A similar path she tolled with her prized book, “Girl, Woman, Other” which speaks about the lives of black British women.

“We black British women know, that if we don’t write ourselves into literature, no one else will”.

Bernadine Evaristo

“When I started the book six years ago, I was so fed up with black British women being absent from British literature,” she said. “So I wanted to see how many characters I could put into a novel and pull it off,” she says about the inspiration behind the book.

One of the judges of the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction gave such an invigorating review of “Girl, Woman, Other” saying:

“A must-read about modern Britain and womanhood. This is an impressive, fierce novel about the lives of black British families, their struggles, pains, laughter, longings and loves. With a dazzling rhythm, Evaristo takes us on a journey of intergenerational stories, moving through different spaces and heritages: African, Caribbean, European. Her 12 main characters manifest the highs and lows of our social life.

Booker Prize for fiction

They are artists, bankers, teachers, cleaners, housewives, and are at various stages of womanhood, from adolescence to old age. Her style is passionate, razor-sharp, brimming with energy and humour. There is never a single moment of dullness in this book and the pace does not allow you to turn away from its momentum.

The language wraps the reader by force, with the quality of oral traditions and poetry. This is a novel that deserves to be read aloud and to be performed and celebrated in all kinds of media.”

Margaret Atwood

For Margaret Atwood, this will be the second time she clinches this prestigious award, putting her on a higher pedestal alongside Hilary Mantel, J.M. Coetzee and Peter Carey; the exclusive list of authors who have won it twice.

Booker Prize for fiction

Atwood’s book, “The Testament” is a sequel to the much loved, “The Handmaids Tale” which recently re-entered the Bestsellers lists (much appreciation to the Trump administration) and was adapted into a film series in 2017.

Atwood is an established American author with more than 50 books to her credit, including poetry and critical essays. Apart from winning the Booker Prize for Fiction in 2000 with “The Blind Assassin”, several of her works previously made the shortlist, such as: “The handmaid’s tale(1986)”, Cat’s Eye(1989), Grace(1996) and Oryx and Crake(2003). Not to mention that she has bagged other prestigious literary awards over time. One such is the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Testament is said to have a striking resemblance to the politics of present-day countries, and a judge was quoted as saying:

“It is a savage and beautiful novel that speaks to us today with conviction and power. The bar is set unusually high for Atwood. She soars.”

According to the Booker Prize organizers, the prize money of £50,000 will have to be split between both women.

Featured Image: Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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