Paul Beatty wins Man Booker Prize for The Sellout

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By Pierangelly Del Rio

Image: BBC

This week, writer Paul Beatty was awarded the 2016 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sellout. Beatty became the first American to receive the award after the competition’s rules changed three years ago, allowing writers of any nationality to be eligible so long as they were published in the UK. The Sellout, released in 2015, is a satirical novel, which quickly became the number one best seller in US Politics (Amazon) and winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

The Sellout follows the story of an unnamed narrator, simply known as “me”, who seeks to uphold his identity as an American black man by reintroducing slavery and segregation in a Los Angeles marginal neighborhood. The novel’s satirical humour was widely praised by critics. In The Guardian, Elisabeth Donnelly described it as, “a masterful work that establishes Beatty as the funniest writer in America.” The Wall Street Journal referred to the story as, “Swiftian satire of the highest order. Like someone shouting fire in a crowded theatre, Mr. Beatty has whispered ‘Racism’ in a post-racial world.”

The Sellout beat Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, All That Man Is by David Szalay, Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh and His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet. One of the judges, Amanda Foreman, said the decision took four hours of deliberation. Foreman called The Sellout “a novel for our times”, —probably referring to the current racial tension in US —and compared its content to the writing of Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain.

However, before the recognition, The Sellout’s journey wasn’t easy; the controversial story was difficult to publish with Beatty’s agent confirming that 18 publishers rejected the original manuscript, possibly due to its politically-charged content. Finally, an independent publisher called Oneworld (Publishers of previous Man Booker winner A History of Seven Killings) accepted Beatty’s soon-to-become masterpiece.

Beatty, who accepted the £50,000 prize from the Duchess of Cornwall at London’s Guildhall, was surprised by the achievement. “I can’t tell you guys the journey this has been for me,” said the writer, overcome by emotion. “I don’t want to get all dramatic, but writing has given me a life.”

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Pierangelly Del Rio

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