Breaking the Booker Prize rules, the judges have split the prize between two authors. Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo were both named winners of the 2019 Booker Prize tonight in London.
Atwood won for “The Testaments,” her long-awaited sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Evaristo won for “Girl, Woman, Other.”
The Booker Prize has been shared only twice before. This year’s judges announced, “We found that there were two novels that we desperately wanted to win this year’s prize.”
This is the second Booker win for the 79-year-old Canadian writer, who won in 2000 for “The Blind Assassin.” In the prize’s 50 year history, she is only the fourth author ever to have won twice, but over the years, several of her novels, including “The Handmaid’s Tale” (1985), have been shortlisted.
Evaristo, an Anglo-Nigerian writer who lives in London, is the first black woman to win the prize since it began in 1969.
Coming to the stage with Evaristo to accept her half of the prize, Atwood said, “Neither of us expected to win this. I’m very surprised. I would have thought that I was too elderly. And I kind of don’t need the attention, so I’m very glad that you’re getting some. That makes me happy. It would have been quite embarrassing for me, as a good Canadian, if I had been alone here.”
Atwood, the author of dozens of books — including novels in a variety of genres, works of nonfiction, children’s books and collections of short stories and poetry — is one of the most prominent writers in the world and is rumored to be a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Aside from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” considered one of the greatest dystopian novels of the modern era, her best known books include “Cat’s Eye” (1988), “Alias Grace” (1996) and the MaddAddam Trilogy (2003-2013), a work of speculative fiction about the dangers of environmental destruction and genetic experimentation.
Oddsmakers in Britain, who follow the literary prize intensely, had predicted Atwood would win the Booker this year. Among her competitors was former Booker-winner Salman Rushdie and the Turkish-British writer Elif Shafak. The Booker Prize — worth about $63,000 — recognizes the best novel written in English and published in the UK and Ireland.
As one of the world’s top literary awards, the Booker has a reputation for dramatically boosting the winner’s sales, but “The Testaments” has already been a runaway bestseller since it was published on Sept. 10. In the United States, Penguin Random House said that “The Testaments” sold more than 125,000 copies in its first week, with the best opening day sales of any book in 2019.
“Girl, Woman, Other,” Evaristo’s eighth work of fiction, will be published in the United States on Dec. 3. She has also published essays and written for BBC radio. “Girl, Woman, Other” follows 12 characters in modern Britain. Critics in the UK have called the book “joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary.”
Reflecting on the paucity of minority characters in fiction, Evaristo wrote last week in the Guardian, “What, […]