London, July 9: Sri Lankan-born Canadian poet, essayist and novelist Michael Ondaatjes bestselling novel “The English Patient” — which moves between a nurse tending a horribly burned man in an Italian villa at the end of the second world war and a tragic love affair from his past — has been crowned best winner of the Booker prize of the last 50 years. The novel, along with Barry Unsworth’s “Sacred Hunger”, had won the Booker Prize in 1992.
The Golden Booker was held this year to mark 50 successful years of the much coveted literary prize. The winner was revealed at the closing event of the Man Booker 50 Festival in Royal Festival Hall at Southbank Centre in London on Sunday. “ ‘The English Patient’ is a compelling work of fiction — both poetic and philosophical — and is a worthy winner of the Golden Man Booker,” said Baroness Helena Kennedy, Chair of the Booker Prize Foundation. “As we celebrate the prize’s 50th anniversary, it’s a testament to the impact and legacy of the Man Booker Prize that all of the winning books are still in print,” she said.
A panel of judges read all 51 former winners of the award, with each assigned a decade from the Booker’s history. From 1970s, The Observer’s Robert McCrum chose VS Naipaul’s “In a Free State”; poet Lemn Sissay, reading the titles from the 1980s, went for Penelope Lively’s “Moon Tiger”; novelist Kamila Shamsie’s selection from the 1990s was “The English Patient”; Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall was nominated as the best of the 2000s by broadcaster Simon Mayo, and George Saunders’ “Lincoln in the Bardo” topped poet Hollie McNish’s reading of the 2010s Booker winners. The five selected novels were then put to a public vote. “ ‘The English Patient’ is that rare novel which gets under your skin and insists you return to it time and again, always yielding a new surprise or delight,” judge Kamila Shamsie said in statement. “It moves seamlessly between the epic and the intimate — one moment you’re in looking at the vast sweep of the desert and the next moment watching a nurse place a piece of plum in a patient’s mouth.” “Few novels really deserve the praise: transformative. This one does,” she added. The novel won the 1992 Booker Prize and the 1992 Governor General’s Award. The book was adapted into a 1996 film by Anthony Minghella. The film received nine Academy Awards — including Best Picture and Director — at the 69th Academy Awards. Michael Ondaatje is one of the world’s foremost writers, whose work has influenced an entire generation of writers and readers. Although he is best known as a novelist, Ondaatje’s work also encompasses poetry, memoir, and film, and reveals a passion for defying conventional form. He is one of only two authors whose work has won the Booker Prize and an Oscar, and his latest novel, “Warlight”, has just been published by Jonathan Cape. (IANS)