Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Inheritance of Talent

It was fourth time lucky for the Desai family, as Kiran Desai won the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2006 (the 'for Fiction' is suddenly being emphasised for some reason). Her mother Anita had been shortlisted for Clear Light of Day (1980), In Custody (1984) and Fasting, Feasting (1999).

At 35, Kiran is the youngest female winner of the prize, the only younger winners being Ben Okri, who was 32 when he won with The Famished Road in 1991, and Kazuo Ishiguro, who was one month shy of his 35th birthday when he won with The Remains of the Day in 1989.

Hermione Lee, chair of the judges, described The Inheritance of Loss as "a magnificent novel of humane breadth and wisdom, comic tenderness and powerful political acuteness" and that it won on "the strength of the book's humanity" Sadly, only those present in the Guildhall got to hear all this, as the customary live TV coverage had been dropped by the BBC this year. In fact, what coverage there was on the BBC bordered on the bloody rude. The Ten O'Clock News switched to the ceremony just in time for the announcement: no discussion, no speeches - not even the winner's. I had heard that the prize ceremony would be covered by Night Waves on BBC Radio 3, but there was nothing. The Guardian Unlimited Weblog was the first to break the news on the internet.

And here's an odd bit of trivia: in six out of the last eight years, the author whose surname comes first alphabetically has won. So there's some hope for Martin Amis.

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