Literary Corner Cafe

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The 2010 Mann Booker Prize

Last night (October 12th) at a lavish dinner in London’s Guildhall, Sir Andrew Motion, Chair of the Judges, announced that Howard Jacobson is the winner of 2010’s prestigious Mann Booker Prize for his tragicomic novel, The Finkler Question. The book was published by Bloomsbury and is the third book from that press to win the prize. The other two are Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (2000) and Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (1992), although Bloomsbury has had six books shortlisted including Cats Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996) and Oryx and Crake (2003), all by Margaret Atwood, Lies of Silence (1990) by Brian Moore, Crossing the River (1993) by Caryl Phillips and The Map of Love (1999) by Ahdaf Soueif.

Along with the prestige of winning the Booker, Jacobson was presented with a check for 50,000 Euros and can count on vastly increased sales of his book. A London author and columnist, Jacobson has been longlisted twice previously (Kalooki Nights in 2006 and Who’s Sorry Now in 2002), but has never been shortlisted before this year. Each of the six finalists received a check for 2,500 Euros and a designer bound edition of his or her book. All of the nominated books can now expect stronger sales. In fact, sales of the books on the longlist for this year are running more than forty-five percent higher than last year.

The Finkler Question made Booker history in that it is the first comic novel to win the much sought after prize. It revolves around love, loss, and male friendship, and as with all of Jacobson’s books, it explores the meaning of being Jewish in today’s society. It has been described as containing “some of the wittiest, most poignant and sharply intelligent comic prose in the English language” and as “wonderful” and “richly satisfying” and as a novel “full of wit, warmth, intelligence, human feeling and understanding.”

The plot of The Finkler Question revolves around two men who are old school friends, Julian Treslove, a Gentile BBC radio producer whose career has been marked by its mediocrity, and Sam Finkler, a very popular Jewish philosopher, writer, and television personality. Treslove and Finkler have a “prickly” past, but are held together in friendship partly by their former teacher, Libor Sevcik, a native Czech who writes “tell all” biographies of former stars, such as the elusive Greta Garbo. Both Libor and Sam have been recently widowed. Finkler has never married, but his spectacular lack of success with women, despite his movie star good looks, renders him an honorary “third widower.” One night, after dining at Libor’s lavish apartment in the Regent’s Park district of London and reminiscing about the “good old days” before each had suffered so many losses and disappointments, at precisely 11.30 pm, Treslove pauses beneath the window of the oldest violin shop in town, and he is attacked and robbed. After the assault, Finkler, who has always wanted to be Jewish himself, begins to question just who and what he really is and who and what he really wants to be.

Andrew Motion said, “The Finkler Question is a marvelous book: very funny, of course, but also very clear, very sad and very subtle. It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize.”

Howard Jacobson, who was born in Manchester on August 25, 1942, studied English at Cambridge and taught that subject at the University of Sydney, Selwyn College, Cambridge and Wolverhampton Polytecnic. Even before this year’s Booker win, he was an award winning novelist and critic, who writes a weekly column for the “Independent” and has written and presented several documentaries for television. He lives in London.

The Finkler Question was chosen as the winner of 2010’s Booker Prize from a pool of 138 entries, including fourteen called in by the judges.

The shortlisted entries were:

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (Bloomsbury) Winner
Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey (Faber and Faber)
Room by Emma Donoghue (Picador/Pan Macmillan)
In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (Atlantic Books/Grove Atlantic)
The Long Song by Andrea Levy (Headline
Review/Headline Publishing Group)
C by Tom McCarthy (Jonathan Cape/Random House)

Congratulations to Howard Jacobson on this very prestigious win.

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