Jamaican writer Marlon James wins Man Booker

Thu 15 Oct 2015

Jamaican writer Marlon James has been named the winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2015 for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. It is the first Booker Prize to be won by a Jamaican, and the first for its independent publisher Oneworld Publications.

Mr. James’s book was chosen from a shortlist of seven writers, who included the bookies favourite Hanya Yanagihara for A Little Life , and the British writer of Indian origin Sunjeev Sahota for The Year of the Runaways.

Set in Jamaica, the 686-page book is a fictionalised history on the attempted murder of the reggae singer Bob Marley in 1976. Mr. James, 44, who with his dreadlocks tamed into a ponytail at the back of his head looks like a reggae artist himself, described his feelings as “surreal” in his acceptance speech. He dedicated his award to his late father from whom he said he had acquired his “literary sensitivities.”

He also acknowledged the book’s debt to Jamaica’s reggae singers like Marley and Peter Tosh “who were the first to realize that the voice coming out of our mouths was a legitimate voice for fiction and poetry.”

Acknowledging the other books in the shortlist as “outrageous, dark and beautiful”, he said that writers ultimately “try to make sense of the world we are in.”

The jury chair Michael Wood announced Mr. James’ name at a black-tie dinner at London’s Guildhall. Mr. Wood described the book as “startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation.” A Brief History of Seven Killings reconstructs the attempted assassination through the voices of a range of witnesses, from the FBI and CIA to ghosts, beauty queens and murderers.

“It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times,” Mr. Wood said.

In addition to his £50,000 prize and trophy, which he received from the Duchess of Cornwall, Mr. James also received a designer bound edition of his book and a further £ 2500 for being shortlisted.


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