Booker Prize 2019 jointly awarded to Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo for patriarchy-dismantling novels

Bernardine Evaristo is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize, while Atwood has previously won for 2000's The Blind Assassin.

FP Staff October 15, 2019 07:08:31 IST
Booker Prize 2019 jointly awarded to Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo for patriarchy-dismantling novels

The Booker Prize Foundation, on 14 October in London, announced that the Booker Prize 2019 has been jointly awarded to Margaret Atwood for her novel The Testaments, and to Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other.

Evaristo is the first black woman to win the Prize, while Atwood has previously won the Booker for 2000's The Blind Assassin. The Handmaid's Tale — to which The Testaments is a sequel — had been on the Booker Prize shortlist in 1986.

Atwood and Evaristo received their awards at a ceremony at London’s Guildhall. The Prize, open to all English-language writers around the world, also awards the winner £50,000, which will be split between Evaristo and Atwood this year.

During the press conference with both authors, Evaristo said she hoped she could be a role model for writers of colour, while Atwood said that she will be giving her share of the prize money to a scholarship for indigenous students.

Booker Prize 2019 jointly awarded to Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo for patriarchydismantling novels

Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, winners of the Booker Prize 2019. Image via Twitter/@TheBookerPrizes

Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said:

“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. 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 five-member jury comprised Peter Florence, Afua Hirsch, Liz Calder, Xiaolu Guo, and Joanna MacGregor. Chair of the 2019 judges, Peter Florence, said, “This 10-month process has been a wild adventure. In the room today we talked for five hours about books we love. Two novels we cannot compromise on. They are both phenomenal books that will delight readers and will resonate for ages to come.”

The Booker Prize has been jointly awarded twice before, to Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton in 1974 and to Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth in 1992. In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. This is the first time since then that two authors have been announced as joint-winners.

Here's a look at all the contenders on the shortlist:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's sequel to The Handmaid's Tale picks up the story fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown. The Republic of Gilead is still in power but signs point to internal crumbling. At a crucial time like this, Atwood details the lives of three women, how they meet, and the explosive results of that convergence.

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

Latticing one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaninglessness that is the United States of America.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives of 12 characters, all of them connected in varying degrees. Each of these characters is the narrator of her/their own journey, but we also get to see them through the eyes of the others, when it's their turn to relate their tales.

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma

The novel follows the journey of Chinonso Solomon Olisa, a poultry farmer, and a member of the Igbo people of Nigeria. Drawing upon Igbo cosmology, the novel is framed in the voice of Chinonso’s guardian spirit, or chi. His life is set off course when he sees a woman who is about to jump off a bridge.

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

Inspired by Don Quixote, mediocre writer Sam DuChamp creates Quichotte, essentially placing the bumbling, brilliant knight in the modern day, a salesman who falls in love with a television star and sets off an adventure to declare that love.

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak

Laid out over 10 minutes and 38 seconds is the life of Tequila Leila — murdered, her body disposed of in a dumpster; but while her heart comes to a halt, her mind lingers. In her "final moments", with her brain buzzing with life, she drifts through some of the most significant memories of her journey to this point — a haunting childhood in Van, moving to Istanbul as a young woman, navigating the world of prostitution, finding friendship, and losing love, in the most unexpected of places.

The 2018 Prize was awarded to Anna Burns for Milkman.

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