comic booker

A heavy­weight lit­er­ary award goes to a book that is ac­tu­ally funny. Will won­ders never cease?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By MARK BROWN

Howard Ja­cob­son’s ex­plo­ration of Jewish­ness, TheFin­kler

Ques­tion, be­came the first unashamedly comic novel to win the Man Booker prize in its 42-year his­tory.

HOWARD Ja­cob­son’s (pic) laugh-out-loud ex­plo­ration of Jewish­ness, The Fin­kler Ques­tion, on Tues­day be­came the first unashamedly comic novel to win the Man Booker prize in its 42-year his­tory.

There will be cries of “about time too” for a funny and warm writer, now 68, who has long been highly re­garded but un­re­warded when it comes to ma­jor lit­er­ary prizes. The 2010 Booker Prize chair­man, Sir An­drew Mo­tion, said it was “quite amaz­ing” that this was the first time Ja­cob­son had been short­listed. But he was not, in any way, be­ing re­warded be­cause it was his turn.

“It never came into our minds,” he said. “It won be­cause it was the best book.”

Mo­tion agreed it could be called a comic novel but said it was much more. It was “ab­so­lutely a book for grown-ups, for peo­ple who un­der­stand that com­edy and tragedy are linked”.

It will be a sweet vic­tory for the Manch­ester-born Ja­cob­son, who lamented just last week­end in Bri­tish news­pa­per The Guardian the fact that comic fic­tion was not taken more se­ri­ously. “There is a fear of com­edy in the novel to­day,” he wrote. “When did you last see the word ‘funny’ on the jacket of a se­ri­ous novel?”

Mo­tion said times were chang­ing and while he would go to mu­sic gigs when young, his chil­dren now go to com­edy gigs. Hav­ing said all that, The Fin­kler Ques­tion should not, he said, be seen as some­thing that was “re­lent­lessly mid­dle-brow, or easy-peasy” be­cause it was comic. “It is much clev­erer and more com­pli­cated. Sev­eral peo­ple have used the word wise, and that’s a good word.”

The book – Ja­cob­son’s 11th – fol­lows the lives of three friends, Ju­lian Treslove, Sam Fin­kler and Li­bor Se­vick, and tack­les not just what it is to be a Bri­tish Jew, but also the na­ture of friend­ship it­self.

Pub­lished by Blooms­bury, it beat a strong field in­clud­ing a novel that had un­ex­pect­edly and sur­pris­ingly be­come odds-on favourite with Bri­tish bookmakers. Lad­broke’s even stopped tak­ing bets last week be­cause of the bet­ting pat­terns sur­round­ing Tom McCarthy’s C. The oth­ers that missed out were An­drea Levy’s The Long Song, Da­mon Galgut’s In A Strange Room, Emma Donoghue’s Room and Peter Carey’s Olivier And Par­rot In Amer­ica.

Ja­cob­son’s vic­tory means he is Howard Ja­cob­son’s

is the first com­edy to scoop one of the English­s­peak­ing world’s most cov­eted lit­er­ary awards, the Man Booker Prize. – Reuters the old­est win­ner since Wil­liam Gold­ing won in 1980, aged 69, for Rites Of Pas­sage.

The judges were much brisker than in pre­vi­ous years in tak­ing just an hour to agree Ja­cob­son should win, with a 3-2 split.

“It was a pretty in­tense hour. It wasn’t unan­i­mous but it was a de­ci­sion that ev­ery­body is en­tirely happy with,” said Mo­tion. He de­clined to say which side he was on or which book just missed out. He did, though, re­veal that the one book that nar­rowly missed out on mak­ing the short­list was Alan Warner’s The Stars In The Bright Sky.

The judges, who this year also in­cluded dancer Deb­o­rah Bull, jour­nal­ist Rosie Blau, broad­caster Tom Sut­cliffe and writer Frances Wil­son, read more than 140 nov­els be­fore dis­card­ing books by big hit­ters in­clud­ing Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Sal­man Rushdie.

Win­ning the Man Booker means £50,000 (RM247,000) in the bank for Ja­cob­son – but more im­por­tantly, it will guar­an­tee an ex­tremely healthy spike in sales. – Guardian News­pa­pers Limited

Ques­tion

TheFin­kler

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