Michael Ondaatje Wins Golden Booker Prize

July 10, 2018

Stack of Books

To celebrate a half century of the Man Booker Prize, the Booker Prize Foundation has awarded its Golden Booker to Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, based on a public survey of finalists. The finalists—V.S. Naipaul’s In a Free State, Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo, along with The English Patient—were selected by a panel of judges, each assigned a century from the Booker’s history.

Speaking on Sunday at the Man Booker 50 festival in London, Michael Ondaatje said, “Not for a second do I believe this is the best book on the list, especially when it is placed beside a work by V.S. Naipaul, one of the masters of our time, or a major work like Wolf Hall.” Ondaatje added: “I suspect and know more than anyone that perhaps The English Patient is still cloudy, with errors in pacing.” Ondaatje also noted other prominent authors who never won a Booker, including William Trevor, Barbara Pym, and Alice Munro.

“Few novels really deserve the praise: transformative. This one does,” said novelist Kamila Shamsie, the judge who selected The English Patient. “It moves seamlessly between the epic and the intimate—one moment you’re in looking at the vast sweep of the desert, and the next moment watching a nurse place a piece of plum in a patient’s mouth... It’s intricately and rewardingly structured, beautifully written, with great humanity written into every page.”

The English Patient received nearly 9,000 votes from the public, more than any other shortlisted novel. Previous best-of surveys, carried out for the Book Prize’s 25th and 40th anniversaries, were both won by Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.


Image Credit: The Booker Prize Foundation

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