Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo were both named as joint winners of the 2019 Booker Prize this evening in London.
Atwood’s The Testaments and Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other were recognized for their great literary achievements of the year. Both authors will split the £50,000 prize money equally, even though the Booker Prize rules state that the prize cannot be “divided or withheld”.
The award has been shared twice before-in 1974 and 1992, but, in 1992 the rules were changed where only one winner could be announced.
However, the 2019 judges wanted to throw out the rulebook and declare two winners for the prize, due to the fact that they had a hard time deciding between the two authors.
As reported by the BBC:
“The thinking was it just doesn’t work – it sort of detracts attention from both, rather than drawing attention to either,” according to Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation.
So when Florence told her the five judges wanted to announce a tie, she said no. The judges got back around the table.
Again, they told Wood they wanted two winners. This time, Wood phoned Baroness Kennedy QC, chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, who told her: “Absolutely not.”
The judges deliberated again. “We tried voting, it didn’t work,” Florence said.
“There’s a metaphor for our times. And equally, today of all days, when rebellion is in the air, maybe we were a little moved by that.”
The panel resolved to hold firm on their split decision. Baroness Kennedy was called again.
“She said, ‘Well if that’s what they’ve chosen to do, there’s nothing we can do,'” Wood said.
“We had to move on.”
Florence added that both winning books “have urgent things to say”.
This year’s award has another reason for being momentous: Atwood is the oldest ever Booker winner, aged 79, while Evaristo is the first black woman to win the award.
Here are the other nominated novels:
- Lucy Ellmann – Ducks, Newburyport
- Chigozie Obioma – An Orchestra of Minorities
- Salman Rushdie – Quichotte
- Elif Shafak – 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World