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Hilary Mantel: British writer wins 2nd Booker Prize
The Booker, established in 1969, usually brings a huge sales and publicity boost for the winner.
Before she won three years ago, Miss Mantel was a critically praised but commercially lukewarm author of novels about everything from the French Revolution (“A Place of Greater Safety”) to the life of a psychic medium (“Beyond Black”). Now, the 60-year-old author is a best-selling literary sensation.
“My publishers were always announcing my breakthrough book, and it never really happened,” she said of her early career. “My fortunes began to turn when I met Thomas Cromwell.”
Miss Mantel joins Peter Carey of Australia and J.M. Coetzee of South Africa as a two-time winner of the prize, which is open to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies.
Miss Mantel beat five other short-listed books to take the prize. She was the bookies’ favorite, although Britain’s Will Self also was considered a strong contender for the century-spanning stream of consciousness “Umbrella.”
Indian poet Jeet Thayil was nominated for his first novel, “Narcopolis,” set among heroin addicts in 1970s and ‘80s Mumbai, and Britain’s Alison Moore for “The Lighthouse,” about a middle-aged man’s life-changing ferry trip to Germany.
The other finalists were Malaysia’s Tan Twan Eng for “The Garden of Evening Mists,” which centers on a survivor of a World War II Japanese prison camp, and South Africa-born Briton Deborah Levy for “Swimming Home,” a portrait of the devastation wreaked by depression.
The prize — officially known as the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services firm Man Group PLC — always sparks a flurry of betting and a blaze of literary debate.
Last year’s jury, which gave the prize to Julian Barnes for “The Sense of an Ending,” was accused of dumbing down after the chair of the panel said finalists had been chosen for “readability.”
This year’s list was more adventurous. Only Miss Mantel had been a finalist before, and Mr. Self is a relentlessly modernist experimenter, while Mr. Tan, Miss Levy and Miss Moore are all published by small, independent publishers.
Miss Mantel’s book was the best-seller on the shortlist and now will sell in even bigger numbers.
“Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies” also are being adapted for television by the BBC, and a stage version is in the works. But Miss Mantel said she was trying not to feel the pressure as she works on the final book in the trilogy, provisionally titled “The Mirror and the Light.”
“It is not the Olympics,” she said. “It is not a competition. You are only as good as your last paragraph — and I haven’t even written one of those today.
“When I start writing again, I’ll forget all this, because every day has got its new problems and every day you feel like a beginner. … It’s just you struggling with your subject matter and a blank screen.”
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