Margaret Atwood shares Booker Prize: 5 things to know
Author Margaret Atwood posing for a portrait in Toronto, Aug. 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Invision, Arthur Mola
Published Monday, October 14, 2019 9:32PM EDT
TORONTO -- The Booker Prize was awarded to two writers this year: Margaret Atwood for “The Testaments” and Bernadine Evaristo for “Girl, Woman, Other.”
Some interesting facts from this year’s award:
1. The jury broke the rules
This is the first time two authors have won since the rules were changed in 1993 that barred more than one winner. The thinking at the time was that two winners took attention away from the writers.
The last time this happened was in 1992 when Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth won for “The English Patient” and “Sacred Hunger.” The only other time two authors have won since the prize was established in 1968 was when Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton won in 1974.
“It’s a very unusual move,” The Toronto Star’s book editor Deborah Dundas told CTV News Channel. “They were speaking for five hours and they felt impassioned that both should be winners and they could not -- and would not -- determine that one of them should take the prize. Period.”
The judges reached out to the Foundation twice about choosing two winners and was told “absolutely not,” according to the BBC.
Gaby Wood, the literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation said the judges were not divided over the winners - they were simply unwilling to compromise on a single one.
“(They) asked if they might split the prize between them. On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them.”
2. The oldest Booker Prize winner
Margaret Atwood, who turns 80 on Nov. 18, is the oldest author to ever win the Booker Prize.
3. Atwood has won the Booker before
Atwood won in 2000 for “The Blind Assassin,” and has been shortlisted for four other books, including “The Handmaid’s Tale” in 1986.
4. First black woman and first black British author to win
Evaristo, 60, is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize and first black British author to do so.
“It’s really, really important that she won,” said Dundas, calling the book groundbreaking.
“And it’s important because I think the line was, ‘If black women don’t tell their own stories -- which is what the book is about -- then who’s going to write them into history?’”
Black writers who have previously won include Jamaican author Marlon James in 2015 for “A Brief History of Seven Killings” and American author Paul Beatty in 2016 for “The Sellout.”
5. What will they do with the prize money?
The two authors will split the £50,000 prize. Evaristo said she will put hers towards her mortgage, while Atwood said she will donate hers to the Canadian Indigenous charity, Indspire, which invests in the education of Indigenous people, according to The Guardian.