Saturday, 16 February, 2019

Anna Burns wins 50th Man Booker Prize for 'Milkman'

Anna Burns wins Man Booker Prize Canadian Esi Edugyan vying for Man Booker Prize
Lora Ball | 19 October, 2018, 18:54

In addition to Milkman, the Booker Prize shortlist - two-thirds of which were written by women - included Robin Robertson's The Long Take, which uses prose to follow a World War II veteran across the U.S. in Hollywood's postwar glory years, Richard Powers' The Overstory, a work of narrative with an ecological message, The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, an steadfast account by a woman of poverty and mass incarceration, Esi Edugyan's Washington Black, an unusual story of colonial slavery and the burden of freedom, and Daisy Johnson who's nomination for Everything Under, her debut novel about a complex mother-daughter relationship, made her the youngest nominee in the Man Booker Prize history.

"None of us has ever read anything like this before", said Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the 2018 judges, in announcing the victor.

The judges of the annual award praised Anna Burns' work as utterly distinctive.

Written in lengthy blocks of paragraphs, eschewing character names for descriptions, Appiah admitted that "Milkman" could be seen as "challenging, but in the way a walk up Snowdon is challenging".

Asked whether he accepts Milkman is a challenging read, Appiah replied it was "enormously rewarding" provided readers persist with it.

She said her story of an 18-year-old's struggles with male encroachment and the pressures of the public on the private life are not linked to MeToo but she is "happy for it to be taken that way".

Burns said writing has not been a lucrative career for her, and that the £50,000 prize she has been awarded will go towards paying off her debts.

Appiah said the judges didn't take the author's gender or nationality into account when selecting the victor. Milkman- a paramilitary figure, approaches Middle Star.

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

The judges said Milkman was "simply marvellous". "I think this novel will help people think about #MeToo ..."

The chairman said he was "resigned" to the novel being linked to the Me Too movement, but said the work was more universal.

Appiah was unabashed. He said: "I've never thought that a book that people can read on the tube was one of the important features to look for".

None of the characters have names - they are labelled instead, as longest friend, maybe-boyfriend, wee sisters, Somebody McSomebody.

Mr Appiah said Ms Burns wrote with a witty, unique voice. It lost power and atmosphere and turned into a lesser - or perhaps just a different - book. I'm happy for it to be taken that way.

"We picked the book that is most deserving of the prize", he said at a news conference. "Sometimes the book threw them out itself", she said.

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