54-year-old Los Angeles-born writer Paul Beatty has taken out the £50,000 Man Booker Prize and title for 2016 for his book, The Sellout.
Historian Amanda Foreman, who chaired this year’s judging panel, said it took the judges almost four hours to reach the unanimous decision, to award Beatty the prize; a prize that in the Man Booker’s 48-year history, has not been awarded to an American.
The winner was announced on 25 October at a black tie dinner at London’s Guildhall; Camilla, the Dutchess of Cornwall, presented the award.
The BBC reported that Beatty was overcome with emotion and struggled for words as he began his acceptance speech.
“I hate writing,” he admitted.
“This is a hard book,” he went on. “It was a hard for me to write, I know it’s hard to read. Everyone’s coming at it from different angles.”
It’s “hard” predominantly because of the content of the novel – Bonbon, the narrator seeks to reinstate slavery and segregate his local high school in Dickens, California, an ‘agrarian ghetto’ that has been removed from the map to save California the embarrassment. What follows is a remarkable journey that challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life and the civil rights movement.
Foreman goes on to say that The Sellout “is a first-class piece of serious literature wrapped up in a shawl of humour… a book that nails the reader to the cross with cheerful abandon. But while you are being nailed you are being tickled.”
“It manages to eviscerate every social taboo and politically correct nuance… While making us laugh, it also makes us wince. It is both funny and painful at the same time.”
The shortlisted authors will each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. They are Otessa Moshfegh for Eileen, Madeleine Thien for Do Not Say We Have Nothing, David Szalay for All That Man Is, Graeme Macrae Burnet for His Bloody Project and Deborah Levy for Hot Milk.
This is the second consecutive Man Booker Prize win for independent publisher Oneworld; they also represented last year’s winner Marlon James and his A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize
A biting American satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court.
Born in the 'agrarian ghetto' of Dickens - on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles - the narrator of The Sellout is raised by his single father, a controversial sociologist, and spends his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. Led to believe that his father's pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes, he is shocked to discover...