Eleanor Catton of New Zealand won the prestigious Booker Prize on Tuesday for her sprawling and mysterious saga “The Luminaries”, from among six contenders that included the first African woman to be a finalist and a Zen Buddhist priest.
The other finalists for the £50,000 ($80,000) award were UK author Jim Crace for his village parable “Harvest”; Colm Toibin’s Bible-inspired novella “The Testament of Mary”; an Indian-American journey described in “The Lowland” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri; the shantytown story of “We Need New Names” by Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo; and “A Tale for the Time Being” by Canada’s Ruth Ozeki, a Buddhist priest.
Eligibility rules to change
The Booker, which brings huge publicity and a sales boost for its winners, is closely followed by readers, booksellers and literary gamblers.
Crace and Toibin were both previous Booker finalists. The other four writers – all women – were first-time nominees.
Crace, at 67, was the oldest writer in contention while Catton was the youngest at 28.
The winner was announced during a ceremony at London’s medieval Guildhall, with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, presenting the coveted award.
Founded in 1969, the award is open to British, Irish and Commonwealth authors. That is about to change – beginning next year, Americans and other English-language writers will be able to enter as well.
There was already a strong American accent to this year’s contest – Lahiri, Bulawayo, Toibin and Ozeki are all at least partly US-based.
The rule change aims to expand the scope and prestige of the Booker, but some fear it may alter the delicate chemistry of the prize.
The award is officially named the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, the financial services firm Man Group PLC.