Howard Jacobson wins Booker Prize

  • Published

Author and columnist Howard Jacobson has won the Man Booker Prize for his comic novel The Finkler Question.

Jacobson, who beat contenders including double winner Peter Carey, received the £50,000 prize at London's Guildhall.

Chair of judges, Sir Andrew Motion, described the 68-year-old author's book as "very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle".

It explores Jewishness through the lives of three friends - two of them Jewish and one who wishes he was.

Accepting the award, Jacobson joked he had been writing unused acceptance speeches for years.

"I note that my language in these speeches grows less gracious with the years," he said.

"You start to want to blame the judges who have given you the prize for all the prizes they didn't give you. But they aren't, of course, the same judges.

"Tonight, I forgive everyone - they were only doing their job those judges, every one of whose names I could reel off."

Sir Andrew said the "marvellous book" was "all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be".

"It's highly articulate, everything works in it very well," he said.

"That is what you expect from him but it's also, in an interesting and complicated way, a very sad book, a very melancholy book."

'Jewish Austen'

Jacobson's 11th novel is about a former BBC radio producer, Julian Treslove, who is attacked on his way home from an evening out reminiscing with friends.

After the attack, his sense of his own identity begins to change.

Jacobson, who describes himself as "the Jewish Jane Austen" has said the book is about "what Jewishness looks like to someone from the outside".

Image caption,
Jacobson writes a weekly column for The Independent

"I bring the ways of Jewish thinking into the English novel," he said.

The five-strong judging panel met on Tuesday afternoon and decided the winner in one hour.

But the decision was not unanimous with the judges - Sir Andrew, journalist and broadcaster Tom Sutcliffe, Royal Opera House creative director Deborah Bull, author Frances Wilson and Financial Times literary editor Rosie Blau - voting three to two for The Finkler Question.

Hat-trick foiled

Tom McCarthy's C, the story of one man's obsession with the early days of radio, had been the 8/15 bookmakers' favourite to win.

Peter Carey, meanwhile, was hoping to become the first author to win the Booker Prize three times, with Parrot and Olivier in America.

Carey, whose book explores American democracy, won the Booker in 1998, for Oscar and Lucinda, and again in 2001, for True History of the Kelly Gang.

Damon Galgut's semi-autobiographical novel In A Strange Room tells the story of three journeys made by the same man at different times.

The case of Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned and raped his own daughter in Austria, is the inspiration for Emma Donoghue's novel Room, an early favourite for the prize after the shortlist was announced.

The Long Song, Andrea Levy's tale of the last years of slavery in Jamaica, also missed out.

Jacobson, who lives in London, was born in Manchester and educated in Whitefield, Greater Manchester, before studying at Downing College, Cambridge.

He taught at the University of Sydney before returning to Cambridge to teach at Selwyn College.

Luggage entrepreneur

Jacobson's time lecturing at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in the 1970s provided the inspiration for debut novel Coming From Behind, published in 1983.

He went on to write books including 1992's Cain-and-Abel inspired The Very Model of a Man, 1998's No More Mister Nice Guy - the story of a TV critic's mid-life crisis - and the Mighty Walzer, based in the Jewish community of 1950s Manchester.

He was previously longlisted for the Booker in 2002, for Who's Sorry Now, about a south London luggage entrepreneur who loves four women.

Jacobson, who writes a weekly column for The Independent and has presented a number of TV documentaries, was again longlisted four years later for Kalooki Nights.

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