widenews desk: Paul Beatty has become the first US author to win the Man Booker Prize with his racial satire The Sellout. Beatty’s win was announced at a ceremony at London’s Guildhall on 25 October Tuesday.
His novel tells the story of a young black man who tries to reinstate slavery and racial segregation in a suburb of Los Angeles.
Amanda Foreman, chair of the judges, said the book managed “to eviscerate every social taboo”.
Picking up the £50,000 prize from the Duchess of Cornwall, Beatty, 54, was clearly overwhelmed with emotion and struggled for words as he began his acceptance speech.
“I hate writing,” he admitted later in the speech. “This is a hard book,” he went on. “It was a hard for me to write, I know it’s hard to read. Everyone’s coming at it from different angles.”
Beatty said, “Writing’s given me a life. It’s nice to know that something I’ve worked on for the last five years, if not more, has touched people, not only in the States but in the UK. That’s incredible.”
He went on to describe the standout moment before publication when he realised he had written something of note, when doing a reading at an arts college in Maryland, Detroit.
“I just had a sheaf of papers and started reading and I just lost it,” he said. “It hit me at that moment that I had written what was in my head… the tone, the language, emotion, the humour, it just all matched. I shocked myself that I was able to do that.”
Asked if he was writing another book, Beatty laughed: “I am pretty exhausted and busy. My schedule needs to be clear to write so I’ve been thinking, not writing.”
This is the third year that the £50,000 prize has been open to writers of any nationality. The shortlist included two British, two US, one Canadian and one British-Canadian writer.