'Bernadine Evaristo & Margaret Atwood jointly awarded Booker Prize

‘Both phenomenal books’: Bernadine Evaristo & Margaret Atwood jointly awarded Booker Prize

Booker Prize
The Booker Prize has been awarded jointly to two female novelists for the first time in history, with Canadian writer Margaret Atwood sharing the prize with British-born Anglo-Nigerian author Bernadine Evaristo.

Evaristo also becomes the first black woman to win the prize in its fifty year history. 

The joint prize was announced at The Guildhall in London on Monday night, with the Judges declaring they could not decide on a single winner and that the ten month process had been a “wild adventure”.

Atwood was awarded the prestigious prize for ‘The Testament’, her long awaited sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, which saw a 200 percent increase in sales since 2017. In its first week sales in early September, Atwood’s sequel sold a record-breaking 125,000 copies in all combined formats in the U.S and has impressively accounted for 86% of the shortlist sales.

‘Girl, Woman, Other’ is Evaristo’s eighth book, and explores the realities of 12 black, British women in a stirring, oceanic-expanse of experimental storytelling. Evaristo said she wanted to interrogate the question, “What does it mean to not see yourself reflected in your nation’s stories?”

The judges of the prize called it a “must-read about womanhood and an impressive, fierce novel about the lives of black British families, their struggles, pains, laughter, longings and loves. The language wraps the reader by force, with the quality of oral traditions and poetry. This is a novel that deserves to be read aloud and to be performed and celebrated in all kinds of media.”

As well as being the first black woman to win the prize, Evaristo’s win also makes her the first black British author since its inaugural presentation in 1969.

This is Atwood’s second Booker Prize win, having securing it 19 years ago for her novel ‘The Blind Assassin,’ making her the fourth ever writer to have won the prize twice. “The Testaments” is Atwood’s 17th novel. The judges were glowing in their comments, calling it “a savage and beautiful novel that speaks to us today with conviction and power. The bar is set unusually high for Atwood. She soars.”

The decision was tough. Chair of the 2019 judges, Peter Florence said in a statement, “This ten month process has been a wild adventure. In the room today we talked for five hours about books we love. Two novels we cannot compromise on. They are both phenomenal books that will delight readers and will resonate for ages to come.”

Florence continued, “The more we talked about it, [having two winners] seemed the only fair representation of our deliberations, which was why we felt the rules were inadequate to the problem we had been given. We tried voting, that didn’t work. There’s a metaphor for our times.”

Booker Prize Foundation director Wood told The Guardian, “They have actively broken the rules. The chair of trustees was also involved in saying no … It is an explicit flouting of the rules and they all understood that.” 

“There was nothing unclear about my communication of the rules, nor the trustees’ decision. That’s the choice they made. You can say what’s the point of rules but there will always be rebellions. It was a rebellious gesture but it was … a generous one.”

Wood was adamant that future prizes will remain awarded to a single book. 

Other books shortlisted this year for the prize included Lucy Ellmann’s “Ducks, Newburyport”, Chigozie Obioma’s “An Orchestra of Minorities”, Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World” and Salman Rushdie’s “Quichotte”.

The two winners will split the £50,000 award. (Roughly $AUD 93,000) 

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