Anna Burns wins Man Booker Prize for ‘Milkman’

Lawrence Kim
October 17, 2018

Anna Burns won the Man Booker Prize, worth £50,000 or about Rs 48 lakh, for her novel Milkman at the award ceremony on October 16 in London, UK.

"But there are also in each of them moments of hope".

Set in an unnamed city during the bloody "Troubles" of Northern Ireland, the "Milkman" tells the coming-of-age story of a young girl's affair with an older man.

Set in the 1970s, the novel was published amid the global eruption of sexual misconduct allegations sparked by the #Metoo movement.

It featured three Britons, two Americans, and Canadian writer Esi Edugyan for "Washington Black", about an 11-year-old slave on a Barbados sugar plantation.

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. Last year's victor was George Saunders for Lincoln in the Bardo, and in 2016, the prize went to Paul Beatty for The Sellout.

The other finalists were USA novelist Rachel Kushner's The 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.

USA author Rachel Kushner was also a finalist for "The Mars Room", a gritty tale written from the perspective of a former lap-dancer serving two life sentences in a USA women's jail.

This year's shortlist was made up of writers from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

The Man Booker has a reputation for transforming writers' careers, and the one who will emerge from the field to beat other finalists is always subject to intense speculation and lively betting.

"We picked the book that is most deserving of the prize", he said at a news conference. Past winners include such literary titans as Kazuo Ishiguro, Ben Okri, Hilary Mantel and Michael Ondaatje, who was longlisted this year.

Founded in 1969, the prize was originally open to British, Irish and Commonwealth writers.

Fears that the Booker would become Americanised were born out to a degree in recent years, after the prize went to American authors for two consecutive years - to George Saunders in 2017, for Lincoln in the Bardo, and to Paul Beatty in 2016, for The Sellout.

Milkman appears on the printed page with few paragraph marks, which has led some to label it experimental and challenging.

"There are many marvellous things about this book. the texture of the language, it's written in this awesome voice", said Appiah.

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature at the Arts Council, said: "Milkman is an extraordinary book and is rightly acclaimed as a breathtakingly original novel which is a thrill to read". "The pleasure of it really has to do with the way that it sounds".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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