The winner of what is probably the world’s most anticipated literary award, the Man Booker Prize, has just been announced in London. The winner is The Sellout by Paul Beatty, published in Australia by Allen & Unwin.
According to the Man Booker website: “The 54-year-old New York resident, born in Los Angeles, is the first American author to win the prize in its 48-year history. US authors became eligible in 2014. The 2016 shortlist included two British, two US, one Canadian and one British-Canadian writer.
“The Sellout is a searing satire on race relations in contemporary America. The Sellout is described by The New York Times as a ‘metaphorical multicultural pot almost too hot to touch’, whilst theWall Street Journal called it a ‘Swiftian satire of the highest order. Like someone shouting fire in a crowded theatre, Mr. Beatty has whispered “Racism” in a postracial world.’
“The book is narrated by African-American ‘Bonbon’, a resident of the run-down town of Dickens in Los Angeles county, which has been removed from the map to save California from embarrassment. Bonbon is being tried in the Supreme Court for attempting to reinstitute slavery and segregation in the local high school as means of bringing about civic order. What follows is a retrospective of this whirlwind scheme, populated by cartoonish characters who serve to parody racial stereotypes. The framework of institutional racism and the unjust shooting of Bonbon’s father at the hands of police are particularly topical.
“Amanda Foreman, 2016 Chair of judges, comments: ‘The Sellout is a novel for our times. A tirelessly inventive modern satire, its humour disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.’
“In addition to his £50,000 prize and trophy, Beatty also receives a designer bound edition of his book and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted.
“On winning the Man Booker Prize, an author can expect international recognition, plus a dramatic increase in book sales. Last year’s winning novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, has gone on to sell over 360,000 copies in the UK and Commonwealth, as well as 120,000 in the US. When accepting his prize, James said, ‘I just met Ben Okri and it just reminded me of how much of my literary sensibilities were shaped by the Man Booker Prize… It suddenly increases your library by 13 books.”