Booker Prize Goes to Two: Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo

From Publishing Perspectives:

In what will be for some a controversial move, the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction has been given to both Canada’s Margaret Atwood and the UK’s Bernardine Evaristo at the annual ceremony at London’s Guildhall.

Atwood is being honored for The Testaments (Chatto & Windus), the seequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, part of the Gilead body of material that has given Atwood’s career explosive new life with the success of the Hulu television adaptation and that series’ new content.

Atwood now is the fourth author to win the Booker twice. Her The Blind Assassin won in 2000.

. . . .

Bernadine Evaristo is being honored for Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton). Evaristo is the first black woman to win a Booker.

Girl, Woman, Other is Evaristo’s eighth work of fiction. She also is a writer of essays, drama and content for BBC radio.

Despite the consternation and/or glee of this “joint prize,” to use the foundation’s favorite term for it, this is not the first time the judges have gone literarily rogue and insisted on a split prize. Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton won in 1974 and Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth won in 1992.

In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. In an era in which rules don’t seem to matter in many high places, that 1993 regulation now has been cast aside.

Booker Foundation literary director Gaby Wood is quoted tonight by the Booker’s press people, saying, “Over an agonizing five hours, the 2019 Booker Prize judges discussed all of the much-loved books on their shortlist, and found it impossible to single out one winner.

“They were not so much divided as unwilling to jettison any more when they finally got down to two, and asked if they might split the prize between them.

“On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them. They left the judging room happy and proud, their twin winners gesturing towards the six they would have wanted, had it been possible to split the prize any further.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG says rules are for the little people. The ones who live in Omaha or Burnley.


2 thoughts on “Booker Prize Goes to Two: Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo”

  1. I would have told them that they agreed to the rules when they accepted the job and then locked them in until they picked one name.

    Mind you, the Booker Prize did once have considerable social significance – I’m not sure why as it rarely related to what anyone outside the literary elite was reading – but its importance has been declining for years. Maybe this is all a PR ploy to raise the profile of the prize by linking it to Atwood’s name? The whole business of feeding copies to the judges before “The Testaments” was published to make sure it got on the short list suggests that this may be the case.

    Combining a controversy about judges who won’t do their job with a giving half the award to a best selling book would handily meet this aim. Plus overall it pushes all the right diversity buttons. To be honest, “Girl, Women, Other” sounds much more fun, especially if you are into LGBT Erotica (where it is currently at number 1 in Amazon UK’s charts, though I’ve no idea what this means for sales).

  2. “Plus overall it punches all the right diversity buttons.”

    Which suggests what actually got judged …

    “… but its importance has been declining for years.”

    No surprise found.

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