In a shocking announcement last night, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evari have emerged as co-winners of the 2019 Booker Prize.
The prestigious Booker Prize judges broke 30 years of the competition rules, when they named two winners for this year’s award.
The two women, 79 year old Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Artwood and 60 year old British author professor,
Bernardine Evaristo who were both named joint winners at last night’s ceremony have put out two amazing novels, highlighting intergenerational, intersectional feminist writing.
Atwood won for her novel The Testaments, a follow up to her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, while Evaristo won for her eighth book Girl, Woman, Other which follows the lives of 12 different women.
The announcement has resulted in Evaristo becoming the first black woman to win the Booker since its 1969 debut. Her father is Nigerian and her work, which traverses fiction, poetry and nonfiction, focuses on the African diaspora. Evaristo has described Girl, Woman, Other as an experimental novel that spans more than 100 years of history. Its characters include a farmer, a bride and a lesbian theatre director.
The 2019 Booker announcement also saw Atwood become the fourth author to win the literary prize twice. (Her first win came in 2000 thanks to her novel The Blind Assassin.) The Testaments was controversially shortlisted for the Booker Prize before it had even been published, with judges having to sign a “ferocious non-disclosure agreement”.
In her acceptance speech, Atwood said neither she or Evaristo expected to win.
“I would have thought that I would have been too elderly and I kind of don’t need the attention,” she said. “So I’m very glad that [Evaristo is] getting some. It would have been embarrassing if I had been here alone.”
Evaristo told the crowd she hoped more writers of colour would follow in her footsteps.
“I will say I am the first black woman to win this prize,” she said. “I hope that honour doesn’t last too long. I hope that other people come forward now.”
During the press conference with both Booker Prize winning authors, Bernardine Evaristo says she hopes she can be a role model for writers of colour and Margaret Atwood declared that she is giving her share of the prize money to a scholarship for indigenous students.
Chairman Peter Florence said the five judges simply couldn’t choose between Atwood’s dystopian thriller The Testaments and Evaristo’s kaleidoscope of black women’s stories, Girl, Woman, Other.
Gaby Wood, the literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said prize trustees repeatedly told the judges they couldn’t have two winners, but they “essentially staged a sit-in in the judging room”. Wood insists the decision “doesn’t set a precedent”.
“Over an agonising five hours, the 2019 Booker Prize judges discussed all of the much-loved books on their shortlist, and found it impossible to single out one winner,” Wood said. “They were not so much divided as unwilling to jettison any more when they finally got down to two, and asked if they might split the prize between them.
“On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them. They left the judging room happy and proud, their twin winners gesturing towards the six they would have wanted, had it been possible to split the prize any further.”
The announcement means Atwood and Evaristo split £50,000 pounds ($93,000) in prize money. It’s the first time two people have won the Booker in almost 30 years.
In 1992, Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje and the late British author Barry Unsworth were both named recipients of the prestigious literary award. Before this, the only other time there had been two winners was in 1974, when writers Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton took out the top honour. Organisers re-wrote the Booker rules in 1993 to expressly forbid more than one winner.
Source & image: The Sydney Morning Herald & Booker Prize Twitter