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Paul Beatty is first American to win Man Booker Prize for The Sellout

Published 26/10/2016

Paul Beatty is the first American to win the Man Booker Prize
Paul Beatty is the first American to win the Man Booker Prize

Paul Beatty has become the first American author to win the Man Booker Prize for The Sellout which was described as "a novel of our times" by judges.

The 54-year-old broke down in tears during his acceptance speech at a ceremony at The Guildhall in central London after he was handed the prize by The Duchess of Cornwall.

The Sellout examines race relations in contemporary America and is narrated by African-American BonBon.

After his father becomes the victim of an unjust shooting at the hands of police, BonBon ends up in the Supreme Court as he attempts to reinstitute slavery and segregation in the local school as a means of bringing about civic order.

Beatty, 54, was handed the award and £50,000 prize money to a standing ovation.

In an emotional acceptance speech he said: "writing has given me a life".

Choking back tears, he added: "I'm just trying to create space for myself and hopefully I can create space for others."

Following his win Beatty said that his girlfriend had to give him a "kick in the ass" to get him to finish the book after he repeatedly put it off, joking that he hates writing.

"I'm not lazy I just don't commit to much because if I commit to something I do it."

The author said he started crying after he first read his book out loud as it "matches exactly the language in my head".

The Sellout is Beatty's fourth novel and his success follows previous winners who include Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie.

C hairwoman of judges Amanda Foreman acknowledged the book's timeliness due to it dealing with the "complexities that modern society is confronting with", adding that one of those issues was the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the last few years.

Foreman revealed the judges had three books they "felt particularly strongly about" but had opted for Beatty's novel after four hours of deliberations on Tuesday, calling his writing "a high wire act".

The win marks a second consecutive success for independent publisher Oneworld who also received the prize in 2015 for A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Jamaican author Marlon James.

The publisher has now ordered 100,000 prints of the book for Thursday morning.

The Royal Mail will issue a congratulatory postmark featuring Beatty's name, which will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail nationwide from Wednesday to Saturday.

It will read: "Congratulations to Paul Beatty, winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize."

Beatty saw off competition from fellow American Ottessa Moshfegh and bookies' favourite Madeleine Thien to claim the prestigious prize.

Moshfegh's novel Eileen is about a "disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father's carer and her day job as a secretary at a boys' prison" while Thien's Do Not Say We Have Nothing follows a young Chinese woman who flees to Canada in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests.

Also listed were British writers' Deborah Levy for Hot Milk, which "examines female rage and sexuality as well as the strange and monstrous nature of motherhood", Graeme Macrae Burnett for His Bloody Project, a crime story exploring the life of a 19th century crofter, and Canadian-British writer David Szalay for his novel All That Man Is.

Waterstones fiction buyer Chris White said: "I couldn't be happier. The Booker judges have awarded the most significant of literary prizes to what feels like the most significant novel to have emerged in these strange and difficult times."

Press Association

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