Paul Beatty Becomes First American To Win Man Booker Prize For Fiction – Huffington Post
Paul Beatty was on Tuesday named as the first American to win the prestigious Man Booker fiction prize, for â€œThe Sellout,â€ a biting satire on race relations in the United States.
The narrator of â€œThe Sellout,â€ an African-American called â€œBonbonâ€ tries to put his Californian town back on the map, from which it has been officially removed, by re-introducing slavery and segregation in its high school.
The 289-page novel begins with â€œBonbonâ€ facing a hearing in the Supreme Court, looking back over the events that led up to that point.
The language is uncompromising and may offend some readers. So might some of the content – one old black film actor asks to become Bonbonâ€™s slave – as Beatty lampoons racial stereotypes. The protagonistâ€™s father is unjustly shot by police.
â€œThis is a hard book. It was hard for me to write, itâ€™s hard to read,â€ said a tearful Beatty immediately after winning the award at a ceremony at Londonâ€™s historic Guildhall.
â€œFor me, itâ€™s just really gratifying that something thatâ€™s important to me is also important for other people,â€ he later told a news conference.
Chair of the five judges for the 50,000 pound ($60,900) prize Amanda Foreman said â€œThe Selloutâ€ had been a unanimous choice, reached after a meeting lasting some four hours.
â€œIt plunges into the heart of contemporary American society with absolutely savage wit of the kind I havenâ€™t seen since Swift or Twain,â€ she said.
â€œIt manages to eviscerate every social nuance, every sacred cow, while making us laugh and also making us wince … It is really a novel for our times.â€
Asked about the language, Foreman said, â€œPaul Beatty has said being offended is not an emotion. Thatâ€™s his answer to the reader,â€ Foreman said.
â€œThe Selloutâ€ is 54-year-old Beattyâ€™s fourth novel. He has also edited an anthology of African-American humor.
It was publisher Oneworldâ€™s second Man Booker victory after winning the 2015 prize for â€œA Brief History of Seven Killingsâ€ by Jamaican Marlon James.
Beatty said he would not have written the book had his partner not persuaded him to apply for a grant that allowed him time to complete the book.
â€œI donâ€™t like writing,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m a perfectionist in some ways and I get easily disgruntled and discouraged with what Iâ€™m doing.â€
Apart from the 50,000 pound prize, each of the six shortlisted authors wins 2,500 pounds ($3,045) winning the Man Booker can have a major impact on a writerâ€™s sales and readership. James told Reuters recently that winning the prize can have a â€œseismicâ€ impact.
In its 48-year history, the prize has gone to authors including Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel and Margaret Atwood. Three years ago the rules were changed to cover any novel written in English, regardless of the writerâ€™s nationality, and published in Britain. Previously it was confined largely to authors from the Commonwealth.
Since January, the judges have read 155 novels before whittling the pile down to a â€œlonglistâ€ of 13 then a shortlist of six.
This yearâ€™s shortlist comprised works by two Britons, a Briton born in Canada, a Canadian and two Americans.
Deborah Levy, whose â€œHot Milkâ€ was in the final six this year, has been on the shortlist before, while Ottessa Moshfeghâ€™s â€œEileenâ€ was her debut novel.
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