Evaristo 'bittersweet' on Booker win

Margaret Atwood with Bernadine Evaristo

Margaret Atwood with Bernadine Evaristo Credit @MargaretAtwood

The 2019 Booker Prize has been awarded to two people for the third time in its 50-year history - British-Nigerian author Bernardine Evaristo and popular Canadian author Margaret Atwood. This year, the prize has made history by being awarded to two authors for the first time in nearly 30 years. The authors of The Testaments (Atwood) and Girl Woman, Other (Evaristo) stated that they are happy with the decision.

"They also happen to be wonderfully compelling page-turning thrillers", he added. Aged 19 to 93, they span a variety of cultural backgrounds, sexualities, classes and occupations as they tell the stories of themselves, their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. They include Spread the Word, a writer development agency; The Complete Works mentoring scheme for poets of colour (2007-2017); and the Brunel International African Poetry Prize.

It has been jointly awarded twice before, to Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton in 1974 and to Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth in 1992.

Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said the decision to award two authors "doesn't set a precedent".

However, Peter Florence the head of the five-member panel said, "Our consensus was that it was our decision to flout the rules".

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Partly inspired by the environmental protesters of Extinction Rebellion, who were demonstrating near the prize ceremony's venue in London's financial district, Florence said the judges refused to back down when told the rules prohibit more than one victor.

Book lovers had been waiting for the release of Atwood's novel. She first received the award in 2000 for her novel The Blind Assassin.

Personally, of the two winning novels, I have only read The Testaments and the quality of the novel is what has led me to the conclusion that the novel has been given victor status on behalf of The Handmaid's Tale.

This marks the second time that Atwood has won the Booker prize. "So I wanted to see how many characters I could put into a novel and pull it off".

What's more, the fact that Atwood is slightly older than some previous recipients of the prize is surely far less significant than the fact that the Booker is finally acknowledging black women.

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"So I'm just absolutely delighted to have the prize and to share the prize", she said.

But she will share the £50,000 prize with Canadian author Margaret Atwood, the bookmakers' favourite and a previous victor. This is the first time since then that two authors have been announced as joint-winners. Instead of re-consecrating the Booker's own-those already within its narrow orbit-why not make the Booker family bigger, bolder, more diverse, and move it in new directions?

CRITICS HAVE called out the Booker Prize judges after the first black female recipient was announced as a joint victor. Evaristo is the first black woman to get the award, while Atwood is a second-time victor as well as the oldest person to get it at 79 years of age. Instead, the author reflected, she expects to see others follow in her footsteps in the near future.

Last year's winning title, Milkman by Anna Burns, has sold more than 500,000 copies and has changed Burns' life immeasurably, as she made clear in a moving speech at this week's black-tie awards dinner in London's Guildhall. "And I am gutted that the first black woman to win the Booker has to share it".

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