British author Anna Burns holds her book Milkman
Daniel Leal-Olivias AFP
19 October, 2018, 21:40
Anna Burns has become the first Northern Irish author to win the Man Booker prize, taking the £50,000 award for Milkman, her timely, Troubles-set novel about a young woman being sexually harassed by a powerful man.
The Man Booker Prize is set to be awarded to one of six finalists, including a gritty story set in a women's prison, a novel in verse about a divided America and an environmental epic that has been likened to "Moby Dick" for trees.
The story of an 18-year-old girl's encounters with sex, sectarianism and social coercion in an unnamed province has seen the north Belfast author become the first UK-born victor since Hilary Mantel in 2012. "Also, as with a lot of writers, they don't earn much money". The antagonist uses family, social pressure and even political affiliations to harass her.
Milkman has been hailed as a book that "will last" by the chairman of the panel of judges, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, who said it was as useful for thinking about fractured societies in Lebanon and Syria as it was for the current gender debate in the West. "Because of the flow of the language and the fact some of the language is unfamiliar, it is not a light read; I think it is going to last".
The other finalists were USA novelist Rachel Kushner'sThe Mars Room, set in a women's prison; Robin Robertson's The Long Take, a verse novel about a traumatized D-Day veteran; and 27-year-old British author Daisy Johnson's Greek tragedy-inspired family saga Everything Under.
This year's shortlist - whittled down from 13 - pitted four female writers against two men.
He said: "She's witty, and the way you hear her voice in your head - I think you've never heard a voice like it before, it's completely new".
Anna Burns book Milkman has won the 2018 Man Booker Prize.
First awarded in 1969, the Booker is one of the literary world's most prestigious and lucrative prizes.
The recipient of the Man Booker Prize gets £52,500 (US$69,400), although the bigger reward is seen as the spike in sales which invariably follows.
The Duchess presented Burns with her award, and the two smiled as they posed for photographs.
Its list of winners includes numerous giants of the last five decades, from Salman Rushdie to Margaret Atwood, Iris Murdoch to J.M. Coetzee. Americans have been eligible since 2014, and there have been two American winners - Paul Beatty'sThe Sellout in 2016 and George Saunders'Lincoln in the Bardo in 2017. But Appiah said the vivid, distinctive Belfast language in Burns' book was "really worth savoring".
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