Author Anna Burns has become the first Northern Irish writer and the first woman since 2013, to win Britain’s reno-wned Man Booker Prize for her novel Milkman.
Judges of the annual a-ward praised the work, an exploration of Northern Ir-eland's three decades of se-ctarian violence told thro-ugh the voice of a young woman, as “utterly distinctive”. “None of us has ever read anything like this before,” said Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the 2018 judges.
‘Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. The 56-year-old is the first woman in five years to land the most prestigious English-language literary prize, aft-er Eleanor Catton became the youngest winner, at the age of 28, in 2013.
Burns triumped English debut novelist and British bookmakers’ late favourite Daisy Johnson — at 27, the youngest author ever to be shortlisted for the Man Booker — for her novel Everything Under.
Burns, who was born in the Northern Irish capital Belfast in 1962 and now lives in southern England, had previously authored two novels — No Bones and Little Constructions.
Though set in an unnamed city, Milkman undoubtedly drew on her experiences growing up in the British province during the so-called Troubles. The novel chronicles the struggles of a middle sister in a family as she confronts rumour, social pressures and politics amid violent sectarian divisions in her community.
“There are many marvellous things about this book... The texture of the language, it's written in thi-s amazing voice,” said Appiah. “It's a very powerful novel.” Appiah said the fiv-e-person judging panel re-ached a unanimous decis-ion after a “good discussi-on”. He added that although the novel confronts, among many other issues, gender issues raised by the #MeToo movement, gender played no part in their choice.
“This novel will help people to think about #MeToo... But we think it will last and that means it's not just about something that's going on in this moment.” Launched in 1969, the Man Booker Prize was only open to novelists fr-om Commonwealth states until it began permitting authors of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK and Ireland, in 2014.
Burns is the first Briton to win the prize since the change. This year’s shortlist — whittled down from 13 — pitted four female writers against two men.
It featured three Britons, two Americans, and Canadian writer Esi Edugyan for Washington Black, about an 11-year-old slave on a Barbados sugar plantation. US author Rachel Kushner was also a finalist for The Mars Room, The recipient of the Man Booker Prize gets 52,500 pounds ($69,400, 59,900 euros), although the bigger reward is seen as the spike in sales which invariably follows.