The vote is in: The best Booker book

Lawrence Kim
July 11, 2018

Sri Lankan-born Canadian poet, essayist and novelist Michael Ondaatje's bestselling novel The English Patient - which moves between a nurse tending a horribly burned man in an Italian villa at the end of World War II and a tragic love affair from his past - has been crowned best victor of the Booker prize of the last 50 years.

The Canadian writer's tale of love and conflict during World War II was awarded the Golden Man Booker Prize for fiction after winning a public vote. The film adaptation starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ralph Fiennes won nine Academy Awards in 1997, including best picture.

At Golden Man Booker Live, judge Kamila Shamsie discussed why she had chosen The English Patient as her victor of the 1990s, before an extract of the book was performed by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Michael Ondaatje was presented with his golden trophy.

"Not for a second do I believe this is the best book on the list", said Ondaatje, who was quoted in the Guardian. Applicants to receive was five writers - the authors of the best books for each of the past decades. Hilary Mantel's Tudor saga "Wolf Hall" and George Saunders' U.S. Civil War symphony "Lincoln in the Bardo" were the finalists from the 2000s and 2010s.

Novelist Kamila Shamsie, one of the judges, said Ondaatje's book combined "extraordinary" language, a plot tinged with mystery and compelling characters, including a Canadian nurse, an Indian bomb-disposal expert, a thief-turned-spy and an aristocratic Hungarian archaeologist.

Born in 1943 in Sri Lanka when it was known as Ceylon, Mr. Ondaatje now lives in Canada.

Twenty six years ago, the panel of judges were so unsure who should win the Man Booker in 1992 that they ended up with a tie: Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth.

The English Patient won the Man Booker Prize in 1992. "The English Patient", which follows the lives of four characters brought together during World War II, told through the morphine-affected memories of a severely burned patient, was a Booker Prize victor in 1992.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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