Anna Burns

The Week (US) - - Arts - Dice Stude­mann Lisa Al­lar- Fred­er­ick

Most any writer would feel hon­ored to win the Man Booker Prize, said

in The­ For Anna Burns, au­thor of the novel Milk­man, the award was a god­send. The 56-yearold Belfast na­tive was liv­ing on the edge of poverty and strug­gling with chronic back pain when she fin­ished the book; on its ac­knowl­edg­ments page, she thanks both a food bank and a hous­ing char­ity. And be­cause the dense, ex­per­i­men­tal work hadn’t sold par­tic­u­larly well, the $64,000 cash prize and the sales bump pro­vided by the Booker have been trans­for­ma­tive, even though it won’t nec­es­sar­ily help ad­dress her on­go­ing pain. “It’s nice to feel I’m sol­vent,” she says. “That’s a huge, huge gift.”

Milk­man, which ar­rived in U.S. book­stores this week, is a chal­leng­ing read, said

in the Fi­nan­cial Times. Set in an un­named city that re­calls the vi­o­lent Belfast of Burns’ youth, it fo­cuses on an 18-year-old mid­dle sis­ter who’s co­erced into a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship by a sin­is­ter para­mil­i­tary fighter, and the “claus­tro­pho­bic, un­set­tling” prose of­ten flows from page to page with­out para­graph breaks. But the sub­ject gave Burns a chance to de­scribe what it’s like to grow up un­der the con­stant threat of vi­o­lence—to wit­ness, for ex­am­ple, mil­i­tants shoot­ing the kneecap of an in­for­mant and be sur­rounded by adults who don’t speak of such things. Still, she didn’t in­tend Milk­man to be solely a por­trait of 1970s Belfast. “I would like to think it could be seen as any sort of to­tal­i­tar­ian, closed so­ci­ety,” she says. The set­ting, she says, is sim­ply a place “where we have to keep it all to­gether, even if we are fall­ing apart in­side.”

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