The Jamaican novelist Marlon James on Tuesday won the Man Booker Prize for his novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings,”.
Marlon is the first Jamaican-born author to win the Man Booker, Britain’s most prestigious literary award. At a ceremony at London’s Guildhall, Mr. James said he was so certain that he would not win that he did not prepare an acceptance speech.
- “I’m not an easy writer to like,” he said, referring to his experimental style.
In an interview at the awards ceremony, Marlon said he first envisioned it as a short crime novel.
- “I kept running into dead ends with the stories until a friend of mine said, ‘Why do you think it’s one story?’ ” James said. He realized that Mr. Marley, who is referred to as the Singer in the novel, was the connective cloth that held all the narrative threads together. “Funnily enough, Marley was a character in most of these stories and I didn’t even notice,” he said.
James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1970, and studied literature at the University of the West Indies. He worked in advertising for more than a decade, as a copywriter, art director and graphic designer.
He took a writing workshop in Kingston, Jamaica, and later enrolled in a writing program at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania.
James, who now lives in Minneapolis and teaches at Macalester College in St. Paul, said that he also wrestled with how to depict Jamaica’s violent past while he was working on the novel.
- “We don’t want to talk about the history, we don’t want to talk about the corruption, we don’t even want to talk about homosexuality,” he said. “I love my country to death but I also remember how much of our history is paid for in blood. Were I in Jamaica, I would not have written this novel.”
The finalists included the Nigerian novelist Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel “The Fishermen,” which unfolds in Nigeria in the 1990s and centers on four brothers whose lives are upended by a troubling prophecy from a madman, and a novel by Anne Tyler, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American, called “A Spool of Blue Thread,” a quiet drama about a middle-class family in Baltimore.
Also considered were the British novelist Tom McCarthy’s “Satin Island,” a manic, dizzying story of an anthropologist who becomes a corporate consultant and seeks to write an all-encompassing “Great Report” that sums up our era; “The Year of the Runaways,” by the British novelist Sunjeev Sahota, which follows Indian immigrants struggling in England; and “A Little Life,” a wrenching novel by the American novelist Hanya Yanagihara about four young, ambitious college friends who are building careers in New York while one wrestles with the trauma of past sexual abuse.
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