Howard Jacobson and The Finkler Question Win the Man Booker Prize for 2010

by |October 13, 2010

London author and columnist named winner

October 2010Howard Jacobson is tonight (Tuesday 12 October) named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Finkler Question, published by Bloomsbury.

London author and columnist Howard Jacobson has been longlisted twice for the prize, in 2006 for Kalooki Nights and in 2002 for Who’s Sorry Now, but has never before been shortlisted.

The Finkler Question is a novel about love, loss and male friendship, and explores what it means to be Jewish today.

Said to have ‘some of the wittiest, most poignant and sharply intelligent comic prose in the English language’, The Finkler Question has been described as ‘wonderful’ and ‘richly satisfying’ and as a novel of ‘full of wit, warmth, intelligence, human feeling and understanding’.

This is the third Man Booker winner published by Bloomsbury. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood won the prize in 2000 and The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje in 1992. The publisher has had six shortlisted books including Cats Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996) and Oryx and Crake (2003) by Margaret Atwood, Lies of Silence (1990) by Brian Moore, Crossing the River (1993) by Carol Phillips and The Map of Love (1999) by Ahdaf Soueif.

Sir Andrew Motion, Chair of the judges, made the announcement, which was broadcast by the BBC from the awards dinner at London’s Guildhall. Peter Clarke, Chief Executive of Man, presented Howard Jacobson with a cheque for £50,000.

Andrew Motion comments ‘The Finkler Question is a marvellous book: very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle. It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize.’

Over and above his prize of £50,000, Howard Jacobson can expect a huge increase in sales and recognition worldwide. Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, receives £2,500 and a designer-bound edition of their book.

The judging panel for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was: Andrew Motion (Chair), former Poet Laureate; Rosie Blau, Literary Editor of the Financial Times; Deborah Bull, formerly a dancer, now Creative Director of the Royal Opera House as well as a writer and broadcaster; Tom Sutcliffe, journalist, broadcaster and author and Frances Wilson, biographer and critic.

Sales of the books longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize have been stronger than ever before, with sales over 45% higher than last year. (courtesy of the Man Booker website)

The Winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize

The Finkler Question

Howard Jacobson

Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular and disappointed BBC worker, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they’ve never quite lost touch with each other – or with their former teacher, Libor Sevick, a Czechoslovakian always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results..

Now, both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor’s grand, central London apartment. It’s a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you had less to mourn?

Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends’ losses. And it’s that very evening, at exactly 11:30pm, as Treslove hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country as he walks home, that he is attacked. After this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change.

The Finkler Question is a scorching story of exclusion and belonging, justice and love, ageing, wisdom and humanity. Funny, furious, unflinching, this extraordinary novel shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.

Click here to buy The Finkler Question
Retail Price: $32.95
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Read First Chapter:

1

He should have seen it coming.

His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one.

He was a man who saw things coming. Not shadowy premonitions before and after sleep, but real and present dangers in the daylit world. Lamp posts and trees reared up at him, splintering his shins. Speeding cars lost control and rode on to the footpath leaving him lying in a pile of torn tissue and mangled bones. Sharp objects dropped from scaffolding and pierced his skull.

Women worst of all. When a woman of the sort Julian Treslove found beautiful crossed his path it wasn’t his body that took the force but his mind. She shattered his calm.

True, he had no calm, but she shattered whatever calm there was to look forward to in the future. She was the future. More… (Click More then Extract Tab)

Reviewed by Richard King in The Sydney Morning Herald:

And it is here that Jacobson’s satire darkens, as that most protean of psychological phenomena, anti-Semitism (Finklerphobia?), rises from the filth like a golem.

Though perhaps a little schematic at times, The Finkler Question is an enjoyable novel. Jacobson’s ear is sharply attuned to modern anti-Semitism, to “the incessant buzzing of rumour and reproach” to which Jews are subjected and subject themselves. His portrait of the anti-Zionist crowd that meets under the name “ASHamed Jews” is frequently hilarious. More…

‘A real giant. A great, great writer’ Jonathan Safran Foer

The Finkler Question is wonderful. A blistering portrayal of a funny man who at last confronts the darkness of the world’ Beryl Bainbridge

Q&A with Howard Jacobson on the Man Booker Website

Howard Jacobson in the Guardian last week on taking comic novels seriously:

Trawl through the world of blogs and tweets and you will find readers complaining when they stumble upon a word they don’t recognise, an attitude that doesn’t accord with their own, a passage of thought they find hard work, a joke they don’t get or of which they don’t approve. Anyone would think that the whole art and pleasure of reading consisted in getting helter-skelter through a novel, unscathed, unchallenged, and without encountering anyone but oneself. Once we wrestled with the angel when we read; now we ask only to slumber in his arms.

But the greatest novels won’t let us. The novelist, at his swelling comic best – a Dickens or a Dostoevsky, a Cervantes or a Kafka, a Joseph Roth or a Henry Miller – goes where Hamlet dares the skull of Yorick to go, straight to my painted lady’s chamber, rattling his bones and making her laugh at the terrible fate that awaits her. His comedy spares nothing and spares no one. And in the process asserts the stubbornness of life. Why would we want to read anything less? More…

The Guardian on Howard Jacobson’s win:

The Booker prize chairman, Sir Andrew Motion, said it was “quite amazing” that this was the first time Jacobson had been shortlisted. But he was not, in any way, being rewarded because it was his turn.

“It never came into our minds,” he said. “Having said that, there is a particular pleasure in seeing somebody who is that good finally getting his just deserts.

“It won because it was the best book. You expect a book by Howard Jacobson to be very clever and very funny and it is both those things. But it is also, in a very interesting way, a very sad, melancholic book. It is comic, it is laughter, but it is laughter in the dark.” Motion agreed it could be called a comic novel but said it was much more. It was “absolutely a book for grown-ups, for people who understand that comedy and tragedy are linked”. More…

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Runners Up

C

Tom McCarthy

The author of ‘one of the great English novels of the past ten years’ moves to the next level, with a novel of thrilling action, imagination and ambition, perfect for fans of Bolano and Pynchon.

C follows the short, intense life of Serge Carrefax, a man who – as his name suggests – surges into the electric modernity of the early twentieth century, transfixed by the technologies that will obliterate him.

Born to the sound of one of the very earliest experimental wireless stations, Serge finds himself steeped in a weird world of transmissions, whose very air seems filled with cryptic and poetic signals of all kinds. When personal loss strikes him in his adolescence, this world takes on a darker and more morbid aspect. What follows is a stunning tour de force in which the eerily idyllic settings of pre-war Europe give way to the exhilarating flight-paths of the frontline aeroplane radio operator, then the prison camps of Germany, the drug-fuelled London of the roaring twenties and, finally, the ancient tombs of Egypt.

Reminiscent of Bolano, Beckett and Pynchon, this is a remarkable novel – a compelling, sophisticated and sublimely imaginative book uncovering the hidden codes and dark rhythms that sustain life.

Click here to buy C
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ROOM

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The story of a mother, her son, a locked room and the outside world

Jack is five and, like any little boy, excited at the prospect of presents and cake. He’s looking forward to telling his friends it’s his birthday, too. But although Jack is a normal child in many ways – loving, funny, bright, full of energy and questions – his upbringing is far from ordinary: Jack’s entire life has been spent in a single room that measures just 12 feet by 12 feet; as far as he’s concerned, Room is the entire world.

He shares this world with his mother, with Plant, and tiny Mouse (though Ma isn’t a fan and throws a book at Mouse when she sees him). There’s TV too, of course – and the cartoon characters he thinks of as his friends – but Jack knows that nothing else he sees on the screen is real. Old Nick, on the other hand, is all too real, but only visits at night – like a bat – when Jack is meant to be asleep and hidden safely in Wardrobe. And only Old Nick has the code to Door, which is otherwise locked…

Told in Jack’s voice, Room is the story of a mother’s love for her son, and of a young boy’s innocence. Unsentimental yet affecting, devastating yet uplifting, it promises to be the most talked about novel of 2010. Read a review…

Click here to buy ROOM
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The Long Song

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You do not know me yet. My son Thomas, who is publishing this book, tells me, it is customary at this place in a novel to give the reader a little taste of the story that is held within these pages. As your storyteller, I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed.

July is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale. She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831, and she was also present when slavery was declared no more. My son says I must convey how the story tells also of July’s mama Kitty, of the negroes that worked the plantation land, of Caroline Mortimer the white woman who owned the plantation and many more persons besides – far too many for me to list here.

But what befalls them all is carefully chronicled upon these pages for you to peruse. Perhaps, my son suggests, I might write that it is a thrilling journey through that time in the company of people who lived it. All this he wishes me to pen so the reader can decide if this is a book they might care to consider.

Cha, I tell my son, what fuss-fuss. Come, let them just read it for themselves. Read a review…

Click here to buy The Long Song
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A young man takes three journeys, through Greece, India and Africa. He travels lightly, simply. To those who travel with him and those whom he meets on the way – including a handsome, enigmatic stranger, a group of careless backpackers and a woman on the edge – he is the Follower, the Lover and the Guardian. Yet, despite the man’s best intentions, each journey ends in disaster. Together, these three journeys will change his whole life.

A novel of longing and thwarted desire, rage and compassion, In a Strange Room is the hauntingly beautiful evocation of one man’s search for love, and a place to call home.

Click here to buy In A Strange Room
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Peter Carey

Olivier is a young aristocrat, one of an endangered species born in France just after the Revolution. Parrot, the son of an itinerant English printer, wanted to be an artist but has ended up in middle age as a servant.

When Olivier sets sail for the New World – ostensibly to study its prisons, but in reality to avoid yet another revolution – Parrot is sent with him, as spy, protector, foe and foil. Through their adventures with women and money, incarceration and democracy, writing and painting, they make an unlikely pair. But where better for unlikely things to flourish than in the glorious, brand-new experiment, America?

A dazzlingly inventive reimagining of Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous journey, Parrot and Olivier in America brilliantly evokes the Old World colliding with the New. Above all, it is a wildly funny, tender portrait of two men who come to form an almost impossible friendship, and a completely improbable work of art.

‘If envy is any writer’s sincerest form of admiration, then I was sick with admiration on every page of this vigorous, lyrical masterpiece. The dramatic situations are struck off with hallucinatory force, the characters are coddled with tenderness and humor – and the distant past is made as present as a slap in the face. Peter Carey has long been one of the best writers in English; now he is even better.’ – Edmund White

Click here to buy Parrot and Olivier in America
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Read An Extract – here



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About the Contributor

John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for the last twenty years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Head of Product and Chief Buyer at booktopia.com.au.

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