Marlon James made literary history by becoming the first Jamaican writer to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize for 2015 after beating British-Indian Sunjeev Sahota and four other authors.
“This is so surreal. I feel like I may wake up tomorrow and find all this was a dream,” said the 44-year-old, now based in Minneapolis.
James’s ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ has beaten Sahota’s ‘The Year of Runaways’ and four other titles to bag this year’s trophy at a ceremony held at London’s Guildhall last night.
“I hope this brings more attention to what’s coming out of Jamaica and the Caribbean, because I think there are some brand-new voices coming out who are exploring contemporary society, who are exploring what’s beyond politics, what’s beyond colonialism,” he said, after accepting the award from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
The UK’s Royal Mail honoured James by issuing a special post-mark, which is being applied to millions of letters around the UK today.
The postmark reads: “Congratulations to Marlon James, winner of the 2015 Man Booker prize.”
James’ winning work, his third novel, is inspired by the real life attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the 1970s and explores Jamaican politics through the lens of reggae music.
“A lot of it is based on true events, but quite a bit is made up and that’s part of the reason for the book itself, because there is no history,” the author said.
He also said that he had almost abandoned writing after his first novel was rejected nearly 80 times.
Michael Wood, chair of the judges, described the 68-page epic as the “most exciting book on the shortlist which was full of surprises as well as being very violent and full of swearing”.
This is the second year the Man Booker prize has been open to all authors writing in English, regardless of nationality.
Sahota, who was born in Derbyshire in the East Midlands region of England to Punjabi migrants, was among the favourites to win this year for his work which traces a year in the lives of four young migrants from India struggling to make a living in England.
Others in the running were Londoner Tom McCarthy’s ‘Satin Island’, Nigeria-born Chigozie Obioma’s ‘The
Fishermen’, Los Angeles author Hanya Yanagihara’s ‘A Little Life’, and Minnesota-born Anne Tyler’s ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’.
The shortlisted authors each receive 2,500 pounds and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner receives a further cheque for 50,000 pounds.
Australian author Richard Flanagan won last year’s prize for his wartime novel ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’.
First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker is recognised as the leading award for high quality literary fiction written in English.