Irish Author Anna Burns wins Man Booker Prize 2018 for 'Milkman'

Joann Johnston
October 18, 2018

Chair of Judges Kwame Anthony Appiah described Milkman as "marvellous" heaping praise on its "distinctive, plain-spoken, amusing and resilient" protagonist.

The first ever Northern Irish victor of the prestigious award said that the issues of gender and sexual coercion in prize-winning book Milkman are the result of inspiration, not conviction.

The victor of this year's Man Booker prize will pay off her debts after scooping the £50,000 award, having struggled financially as a writer.

Burns is the first writer from Northern Ireland to win the 50,000-pound ($66,000) prize, which is open to English-language authors from around the world. But for all its praise (the jury chose the novel unanimously, calling it "incredibly original"), Milkman was a low-key entry to the prize this year. By choosing Burns over the more popular entries for the prize, the jury seems to have sent out a provocative signal to the publishing industry to rethink its attitude to promoting books that don't necessarily set the cash registers ringing. She is the author of two novels, No Bones and Little Constructions, and of the novella, Mostly Hero.

"If we had been drifting towards thinking that one of the men on the list was the best one, I wouldn't have said "No guys, we're going to get in trouble for this" any more than if we'd been drifting towards an American", he said.

"It is true that because of the flow of the language and the length of the sentences and the fact that some of the language is unfamiliar, that it is not a light read".

The 56-year-old said the idea of Milkman came to her in the image of a teenage girl walking down a street in a divided city while reading Ivanhoe, a British historical novel set in the 12th century.

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The Man Booker Prize shortlist of six writers was dominated by women this year, with four women making the top selection. Johnson will be the youngest-ever Booker laureate if she wins.

Milkman, her third novel, was the "unanimous" choice of the jury, beating the favourite, eco-epic The Overstory by Richard Powers.

Scottish poet Robin Robertson's "The Long Take" became the first book written in verse with photographs to be shortlisted.

This year's crop of finalists included two U.S. novelists, three writers from the United Kingdom and one from Canada.

"But there are also in each of them moments of hope". Last year's victor was George Saunders for Lincoln in the Bardo, and in 2016, the prize went to Paul Beatty for The Sellout. In an interview on the Man Booker website, Burns said, "In the early days I tried out names a few times but the book wouldn't stand for it".

Mr Appiah said numerous 171 books that had been submitted for the prize were overlong and badly in need of a vigorous pruning.

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