THE Booker Prize 2019 was shared between two authors in a controversial move by the judges.
Margaret Atwood and Bernadine Evaristo shared the prestigious award as the judges broke the rules of the competition.
How much is the prize money?
The lavish ceremony takes place at London’s Guildhall tonight, October 14, with TV coverage from the BBC starting at 9.30pm.
The winner will walk off with £50,000 in prize money as well as the famed award.
Along with Margaret Atwood, the other nominees are Lucy Ellmann, Bernardine Evaristo, Chigozie Obioma, Sir Salman Rushdie and Elif Shafak.
Why was the decision controversial?
The rules of the literary prize state there can be only one winner and the rule was even reinforced by the literary director of the award Gaby Wood when the judges were unable to come to a decision after hours of deliberation.
The panel of five judges though jointly awarded the prize to Margaret Atwood for The Testaments and Bernadine Evaristo for her novel Girl, Woman, Other after more than five hours of discussion.
The Chair of the judges Peter Florence said the jury had been put under pressure to have one winner.
He said: “Our consensus was that it was our decision to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners.
“These are two books we started not wanting to give up and the more we talked about them the more we treasured both of them and wanted them both as winners … We couldn’t separate them.”
After an initial three hours of talks the jury asked Wood if they could split the prize but were told no.
They went back to discuss the issue but came to the same unanimous choice.
Wood then spoke to the chair of trustees Helena Kennedy who also said the rules stated there could be only one winner.
After yet more discussion Florence then came back saying there was “absolute consensus” and they had decided to ignore the rule.
Wood said: “It is an explicit flouting of the rules and they all understood that. It was a rebellious gesture but it was … a generous one.”
The prize has been shared before – in 1974 between Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton and then in 1992 between Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth.
The rules though were changed in 1992.
Who was on the short list?
Atwood’s book The Testaments, is currently favourite with the bookies and she made the shortlist for The Handmaid’s Tale in 1986.
She previously won the award in 2000 for The Blind Assassin.
Atwood, 79, was also shortlisted for the prize in 1989, 1996 and 2003.
When The Testaments was published in September it sold more than 100,000 copies in the UK in its first week, making it the fastest-selling hardback for four years.
The Handmaid’s Tale was set in the totalitarian state of Gilead, where women are subjugated and enslaved in an oppressive patriarchal society and The Testaments sets off where the first book ended.
The Handmaid’s Tale was made into a film starring Natasha Richardson in 1990.
The Chair of the Booker judges Peter Florence said the book was “a savage and beautiful novel that speaks to us today with conviction and power”.
Bookies had made Atwood the clear favourite with odds of 2/1.
The only US writer on this year’s shortlist.
The 62-year-old, was originally born in Illinois, but now lives in Edinburgh.
Her novel Ducks, Newburyport is a sizeable 998 pages and is a stream-of-consciousness that is mostly just one long sentence.
The book focuses on the thoughts of an Ohio housewife who reflects on her past and family as well as her country.
Judge Joanna MacGregor described the book as “a genre-defying novel, a torrent on modern life [and] a hymn to loss and grief”.
Bookies gave her odds of 6/1.
Anglo-Nigerian author Evaristo, 60, made the shortlist with her eighth book Girl, Woman, Other.
Judge Xiaolu Guo called it “an impressive, fierce novel… about modern Britain and womanhood” that “deserves to be read aloud”.
The story follows the lives of 12 characters, most of whom are black, British and female..
Evaristo said she wanted to “explore the hidden narratives of the African diaspora” and “subvert expectations and assumptions”.
Evaristo was on odds of 5/1.
The Nigerian writer is also an assistant professor of literature and creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The 33-year-old also made the shortlist in 2015 for his debut novel The Fishermen.
An Orchestra of Minorities follows the life of a young Nigerian chicken farmer whose love for a woman drives him to become an African migrant in Europe.
Judge Afua Hirsch said it was “a book that wrenches the heart”.
Bookies were offering odds of 7/2.
Shafak is a Turkish-British novelist, academic and women’s rights activist.
The 47-year-old has lived in London for ten years and writes in both Turkish and English.
Her novel 10 Minute 38 Seconds in this Strange World is set in Istanbul and follows the recollections of a prostitute Tequila Leila who had been left for dead in a rubbish bin.
Judge Liz Calder called the book “a work of fearless imagination”.
Shafak was tried and acquitted in 2006 for “insulting Turkishness” in one of her books and was put under investigation by the Turkish authorities again earlier this year.
Bookies put her at 6/1.
Rushdie, 72, is no stranger to the Booker Prize having been on the shortlist in 1983, 1988 and 1995.
He won in 1981 for Midnight’s Children.
That book was named “Booker of the Bookers” in 1993 and then “Best of the Booker” in 2008.
Taking his cue from Miguel de Cervantes’ classic satire Don Quixote, Rushdie’s Quichotte follows an ageing travelling salesman who drives across the US to prove he is worthy of a TV star’s hand.
Florence described Rushdie’s 14th novel as “pushing the boundaries of fiction and satire”.
The controversial author, who now lives in New York, hit the headlines in 1988 for The Satanic Verses with Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa on the author and sparking outrage from Muslims.
Despite his reputation Rushdie was seen as the outsider by the bookies with odds at 12/1.
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Who have been the winners in the past few years?
- 2009 Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall
- 2010 Howard Jacobson for The Finkler Question
- 2011 Julian Barnes for The Sense of an Ending
- 2012 Hilary Mantel for Bring Up the Bodies
- 2013 Eleanor Catton for The Luminaries
- 2014 Richard Flanagan for The Narrow Road to the Deep North
- 2015 Marlon James for A Brief History of Seven Killings
- 2016 Paul Beatty for The Sellout
- 2017 George Saunders for Lincoln in the Bardo
- 2018 Anna Burns for Milkman