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Explained: Why the Booker Prize was shared this year

2019 Booker prize winners: The chair of judges, Peter Florence quipped: “We tried voting, that didn’t work...There’s a metaphor for our times”.

booker prize, margret artwood, Bernardine Evaristo, Bernardine Evaristo booker prize, the testament, girl woman and other, indian express 2019 Booker prize winners Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo have jointly won this year’s Booker prize. Although the rules do not allow for the award to be either split or withheld, the jury was unanimous after several rounds that this year’s award must be shared.

The Guardian quoted The chair of judges, Peter Florence who quipped: “We tried voting, that didn’t work…There’s a metaphor for our times”.

Atwood has won the award for the second time – the first time she won was for her 2000 book, The Blind Assassin – and she is now only the fourth writer to have won this prize twice. At 79, she is also the oldest writer to win it.

Evaristo is the first black woman to have the won the prize since they were awarded in 1969. She is also the first black British author.

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The two women writers beat Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte, Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport, Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World and Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities.

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What is the Booker prize?

The Booker prize is awarded every year to the best novel that was “written in English and published in the UK or Ireland”. Winning the Booker is the standout literary achievement in the English-speaking world.

It carries an award of £50,000. In this case, thanks to the award being shared, the prize money would be split between the two winners.


Atwood reportedly said that she was “too old” and had “too many handbags” and that she would be giving away her share to a preferred charity.

Is this the first time the Booker has been shared?

No, the prize has been shared in the past. The first time this happened was in 1974 when Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton won its together. The second time was in 1992 when Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth won it together. However, since then the rules were tweaked to ensure there are no joint winners.


That rule was eventually ignored by the Booker prize jury this year.

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First published on: 15-10-2019 at 14:28 IST
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