Author Marlon James is the first Jamaican to win the Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings inspired by the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the 1970s.
Receiving the award for A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James said a huge part of the novel had been inspired by reggae music.
“The reggae singers Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were the first to recognise that the voice coming out our mouths was a legitimate voice for fiction and poetry.”
He admitted it was “so surreal” to win and dedicated the award to his late father who had shaped his “literary sensibilities”.
Michael Wood, chair of the judges, described A Brief History of Seven Killings as the “most exciting” book on the shortlist. It was said the judges had come to a unanimous decision in less than two hours.
The 680-page epic was “full of surprises” as well as being “very violent” and “full of swearing”.
He praised the book’s “many voices” – it contains more than 75 characters – which “went from Jamaican slang to Biblical heights”.
“One of the pleasures of reading it is that you turn the page and you’re not quite sure who the next narrator will be.”
But he was compelled to acknowledged that some of the content might be a bit too much for some readers.
In his novel’s acknowledgements, Marlon James himself thanks his family but adds: “This time around maybe my mother should stay away from part four of the book”.
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction also commonly known simply as the Booker Prize, was first awarded in 1969 and is recognised as the leading award for high quality literary fiction written in English. The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured of international success so of course this makes the prize one of great significance for the book trade. Its list of winners features many of the giants of the last four decades: from Salman Rushdie to Margaret Atwood.
This is only the second year the Man Booker prize has been open to all authors writing in English, regardless of nationality. Marlon James, who currently lives in Minneapolis, US, can expect a dramatic boost in sales following his win. After A Brief History of Seven Killings was named on the Booker shortlist last month sales tripled to more than 1,000 copies a week, according to Nielsen Book Research.
This year’s Man Booker shortlist featured two authors from the UK, two from the US and one each from Jamaica and Nigeria.
Marlon James (Jamaica), A Brief History of Seven Killings
Tom McCarthy (UK), Satin Island
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), The Fishermen
Sunjeev Sahota (UK), The Year of the Runaways
Anne Tyler (US), A Spool of Blue Thread
Hanya Yanagihara (US), A Little Life