Indian-American novelist Jhumpa Lahiri lost out on the Man Booker Prize to 28-year-old New Zealander Eleanor Catton, who became the youngest writer to win the prestigious literary award.
Catton won the £50,000-prize for her 832-page novel The Luminaries, a murder mystery set during a 19th-century gold rush.
“I thank the Man Booker Prize for providing value and worth jointly with this extraordinary prize,” Catton, who began writing the novel when she was just 25, said Tuesday night.
She was presented with the coveted award by Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall, at a glittering ceremony in London’s Guildhall.
Catton’s novel is the longest work ever to win the prize.
Travel writer Robert Macfarlane, who chaired the judging panel, called The Luminaries “dazzling, luminous and vast without being sprawling”.
“It is beautifully intricate without being fussy,” Macfarlane said. “It is experimental... but does not by any means neglect the traditional virtues of storytelling.”
London-born Lahiri’s The Lowland, a tale about two brothers brought up in Calcutta in the late 1960s, was lauded by the judges as a “seismological” story which was told with “impeccable lucidity”.
Raised in London, Boston and Rhode Island by immigrant parents from West Bengal, the book is 46-year-old Lahiri’s second novel and fourth book.
This year’s Booker shortlist, announced last month, included six writers of different nationalities, including Canada, Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and, for the first time in the prize’s history, Zimbabwe.
Others in the race included the bookies’ favourite Jim Crace with Harvest , NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names, about a Zimbabwean girl coming of age in the US. Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being tells the story of a diary washed ashore inside a Hello Kitty lunchbox and the profound effect it has on the woman who discovers it.
A week after the shortlist was announced, the Man Booker organisers announced that authors writing in English from all corners of the globe would be eligible for the prize from 2014.
This year marks the 45th year of the prize, which was won last year by Hilary Mantel for Bring Up the Bodies, making her the first woman and first Briton to win it twice.