Canadian writer Margaret Atwood and Anglo-Nigerian writer Bernardine Evaristo won the Booker Prize, the most prestigious English-language literary award, on Monday evening for The Testaments and Girl, Woman, Other, respectively.
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This is the third time since its creation 50 years ago that the prize has been awarded to two books simultaneously.
Already crowned 19 years ago, the Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood is this time rewarded for “Les Testaments” (“The Testaments”), the eagerly awaited sequel to “La servante écarlate” (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), dystopia A terrifying misogynist who has become a veritable feminist manifesto in the era of the #MeToo movement.
The book “The Scarlet Handmaid”, published in 1985, became a successful TV series in 2017 which boosted sales of the novel, the English edition of which reached eight million copies worldwide.
Often cited for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Margaret Atwood, 79, has already won the Booker Prize in 2000 for her historical novel “The Blind Killer”.
“I am very surprised, I would have thought that I am too old”, reacted Margaret Atwood, who wore a badge of the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion.
The Booker Prize 2019 was also awarded to Anglo-Nigerian Bernardine Evaristo for “Girl, Woman, Other” (not translated into French), chronicle of the life of black families in Great Britain.
“I am the first black woman to win this award,” reacted Bernardine Evaristo, who considered it “incredible” to share the award with Margaret Atwood, who is “such a legend”.
Her novel is divided into as many chapters as there are characters, mainly black women from several backgrounds and generations, against the backdrop of a permanent questioning of color and racism, in the relationship to culture and sex. From Barbados to Nigeria, all the protagonists meet in London with a family bond or friendship or esteem.
Launched in 1969, the Booker Prize annually rewards the author of the “best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom” of 50,000 books (nearly $ 83,500) shared between the two winners, and assures her of ‘immediate international notoriety.
It had already been awarded to two authors in 1974 and 1997.
Last year, the award went to North Irish writer Anna Burns, the first North Irish woman to win the award, for her novel ‘Milkman’.
Among the six finalists selected this year were four women.
American Lucy Ellmann was selected for “Ducks, Newburyport,” a 1,000-page long-running novel built around the monologue of a housewife from Ohio, broken down into one sentence almost without interruption. The book highlights, according to jury member Joanna MacGregor, the “exasperating complexity of family life.”
Elif Shafak, the most read writer in Turkey, was in contention with “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”, on the memories of a prostitute in the slums of Istanbul.
Winner of the prestigious prize too, in 1981 for “The Midnight Children”, Salman Rushdie, 72, was selected for “Quixote”, a modern version of the picaresque epic of Cervantes’ hero transposed to America.
Finally, the Nigerian Chigozie Obioma competed with “The Orchestra of Minorities” (“An Orchestra of Minorities”), dedicated to a chicken farmer in a small town in Nigeria. It is “a tale of Odyssian proportions that makes your heart beat,” according to jury member Afua Hirsch. The author had already been nominated in 2015.
Until 2013, the Booker Prize was reserved for nationals of Commonwealth states, before opening the following year to other English-speaking countries.
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Canadian Margaret Atwood co-winner of the Booker Prize