PAUL Beatty has became the first US author to win the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sellout, which the novelist said should not be read as a “monodirectional” take on race.
The jury behind the world’s most prestigious English-language literary award said the novel was a “shocking and unexpectedly funny” portrayal of Beatty’s native Los Angeles, using satire to explore racial equality in a fictional neighbourhood.
Beatty said readers should think of the novel as a work of fiction rather than solely focusing on race.
“I tend to bristle when people say it’s black, it’s angry, it’s about race,” he told journalists after picking up the award at a glitzy black-tie ceremony in London’s historic Guildhall building on October 25.
“Hopefully it’s not so monodirectional.
“These labels are more malleable than we like to think about them,” the 54-year-old writer said.
Beatty appeared overwhelmed when he took to the stage to receive the award from Prince Charles’ wife Camilla.
“I can’t tell you guys how long a journey this has been for me,” he said.
The jury said that through his “equally affectionate and bitterly ironic portrait of the city and its inhabitants, Paul Beatty dodges inherited views of race relations, solutions or assumptions”.
The author “presents through his beguilingly honest and wellintentioned hero an innocent’s view of his corrupt world”, the jurors added, bringing “the unendurable status quo of present day US race relations to an absurdist conclusion”.
The winner of the Man Booker receives £52,500 (US$64,100), although the real prize is seen as the huge sales prompted the moment judges announce their decision.
The Man Booker was launched in 1969 and has awarded prizes to writers including Ian McEwan, Iris Murdoch and Salman Rushdie.
It was only opened to nonCommonwealth authors from 2013 – a decision that was highly controversial in Britain.
No US author had won it until now, despite concerns that writers from the United States would dominate the prize.