Australian Richard Flanagan has won the Man Booker Prize 2014, with his sixth novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto). The novel, a love story set during World War Two, and inspired by the author's father's experiences in a prisoner of war camp, was described as "a literary masterpiece".
The winner of the £50,000 award was announced this evening at a ceremony at London's Guildhall, relayed live on BBC TV News. HRH the Duchess of Cornwall presented the winner's trophy.
The judges described the novel as "a harrowing account of the cost of war to all who are caught up in it", as it questions the meaning of heroism, the book explores what motivates acts of extreme cruelty. Chair of the judges AC Grayling said: "The two great themes from the origin of literature are love and war: this is a magnificent novel of love and war. Written in prose of extraordinary elegance and force, it bridges East and West, past and present, with a story of guilt and heroism. This is the book that Richard Flanagan was born to write."
Poet Andrew Motion, speaking to the BBC about the shortlist and win, said Flanagan's novel had "ambition and stateliness" but was a more "traditional" winner than others on shortlist would have been.
Commenting on the win, Jonathan Ruppin, web editor of Foyles, said: “From a superb shortlist, this was – very narrowly – my favourite, because it succeeds brilliantly in everything Flanagan is trying to do: his depiction of the Burma Railway is unstinting in its brutality, yet every death is a distinct tragedy, a life pointlessly ended. But its true genius is to portray the irreversible warping of the human spirit wrought by war. It's one of the truly great winners of the Prize, one that will be widely read not least because it's impossible to lay aside completely and forget.”
Flanagan, who is from Tasmania, is the third Australian to win the award, following Thomas Kenneally with Schindler's Ark (1982) and Peter Carey, who won with both Oscar and Lucinda (1988) and The True History of the Kelly Gang (2001). He will take part in his first public event as winner of the prize at the Apple Store, Regent Street, on Thursday 16th October.
Also shortlisted were Ali Smith for How to Be Both (Hamish Hamilton), Karen Joy Fowler for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent's Tail), Howard Jacobson for J (Jonathan Cape), Neel Mukherjee for The Lives of Others (Chatto) and Joshua Ferris for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Penguin).
Grayling was joined on the 2014 panel of judges by Jonathan Bate, Oxford Professor of English Literature and biographer, Sarah Churchwell, UEA’s Professor of American Literature, Daniel Glaser, neuroscientist and cultural commentator, Alastair Niven, former Director of Literature at the British Council and at the Arts Council, and writer and former Times literary editor Erica Wagner.