The Man Booker Prize 2016 winner has been announced by the prestigious book award, naming Paul Beatty for his fourth novel, The Sellout. The author goes down in history as being the first US writer to win the prize, following the change to entrance rules in 2014, which extended it to include all English-language novels from its previous Commonwealth, Irish and Zimbabwean confines.
The book is a strange tale of a man, referred only by his last name, Bonbon, who tries to reintroduce slavery and segregation into his LA suburb’s local high-school in an attempt to institute order. The inevitably ill-fated plan goes on to get the attention of the powers that be, resulting in a Supreme Court trial of preposterous proportions. The racial indictment throws up plenty of serious themes that blur the timelines of ethno-coexistence in the US, making the issues of the past the remains of the day.
Beaty overcame competition from a strong Booker Prize shortlist that included Deborah Levy, who picked up her second finalist place with Hot Milk following on from her previous shortlisted novel, Swimming Home. The 2016 longlist was equally impressive with the likes of two-time winner J.M. Coetzee featuring for his latest novel, The Schooldays of Jesus.
The prize was awarded at the black tie dinner last night at London’s Guildhall, which was televised live on the BBC News. Paul Beatty picked up the award, along with the £50,000 prize money, and the huge amount of international recognition the author will get as a result of being announced as the winner in 2016.
The win was announced by biographer and historian Amanda Foreman, who was the Chair of judges for the 2016 Booker Prize, and the trophy was awarded by some duchess lady or other. However, the most impressive part of it all is that the prize is the second in a row to go to an author of independent publisher Oneworld. Having landed with a sharp, genius and heavy thud with Marlon James’ The History Of Seven Killings, the London-based publisher has managed to find and print yet another prize-winning book.
Amanda Foreman was joined on the 2016 panel of judges by writer Jon Day, novelist and University of Kent professor Abdulrazak Gurnah, poet and professor of Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton David Harsent and actor Olivia Williams. 155 books were considered for this year’s prize, so the five judges had a whole lot of reading to do, which goes some way to highlight how much of an achievement it is for Paul Beatty to have been announced as this year’s winner.