Australian author Richard Flanagan has won the Man Booker Prize 2014 with his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. This is the first year that the Man Booker Prize has been ‘open’ to all authors writing in English, regardless of nationality.
Flanagan’s novel is a wartime love story set in the despair of a Japanese prisoner of war camp on the Burma Death Railway. It is inspired by the author’s father’s own experience as a prisoner of war.
It took Flanagan twelve years to finish the book. With his father’s ill health, Flanagan wanted to finish writing before his father died. Flanagan said, ‘This is a story that I had to tell. It mattered to me to finish the book before he died.’
Flanagan’s father died, aged 98, the day the book was finished.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North tells the story of surgeon Dorrigo Evans who is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife. As Evans struggles to save the men under his command he receives a letter that will change his life forever. It is an unforgettable story of one man’s reckoning with the truth.
The chair of judges AC Grayling said, ‘This is the book that Richard Flanagan was born to write.’ Grayling praised the book’s extraordinary elegance and force saying, ‘It bridges East and West, past and present, with a story of guilt and heroism.’
At a ceremony at London’s Guildhall, Flanagan was presented with a cheque for £50,000. The other shortlisted authors each received £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book.
It is the first year that the Man Booker Prize has considered authors from outside the commonwealth. Americans Karen Joy Fowler and Joshua Ferris were two of the shortlisted authors. Fowler’s novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves has proved a hit with booksellers and customers. Ferris, at thirty-nine, is the youngest author on this year’s list.
The other shortlisted authors included Ali Smith, Howard Jacobson, and Neel Mukherjee. Smith was previously nominated in 2001 for Hotel World and again in 2005 for The Accidental. Jacobson won the prize in 2010 with his novel The Finkler Question. Commonwealth writer Neel Mukherjee makes the cut for the first time with his second novel The Lives of Others.