... a magnificent novel of humane breadth and wisdom, comic tenderness and powerful political acuteness.And said that it:
... was chosen, after a long, passionate and generous debate, from a shortlist of five other strong and original voices.In the Guardian, John Sutherland, chairman of last year's Man Booker said:
Desai's novel registers the multicultural reverberations of the new millennium, with the sensitive instrumentality of fiction, as Jhabvala and Rushdie did in previous eras. The setting moves between the Himalayas and the skyscrapers of New York - and it wins Britain's premier fiction prize. It is a globalised novel for a globalised world.Me? I'm happy. Happy not just because the book thoroughly deserves its win, but because it's a book that will widely enjoyed (unlike Banville's the Sea, which deserved to win, but wasn't enjoyable for the general reader).
The Booker book of books should be the one which has the greatest literary merit. Of course. But many readers will only pick up literary fiction once a year when the prize result comes out and there's all the hype about it in the papers.
But amid all the celebration for Desai, this caution from John Ezard in the Guardian should give us pause for thought:
... the current book prize and publishing markets increasingly treat novelists as promotable contenders with their first and second books, mature talents by their third, and possibly old hat, no longer fashionable or burnt out, with their fourth and subsequent titles. After winning this year's Orange prize for her third novel, On Beauty, Zadie Smith, built up for six years as an ultra-celebrity, said at the age of 31 she felt she had no inspiration left for a next book. Among other well-thought of and, in some cases, strongly tipped novelists who fell in this authorial night of the long knives were the veterans Nadine Gordimer with her story Get a Life and Howard Jacobson with Kalooki Nights; James Lasdun with Seven Lies; Jon McGregor - in previous years considered a brilliant newcomer - with So Many Ways to Begin; Claire Messud with The Emperor's Children; Andrew O'Hagan with Be Near Me; and Barry Unsworth, once a joint winner of the award, with The Ruby in her Navel. After the initial surprise, few of those who have read all the titles disagree that the newcomers Matar, Desai and Hyland were well-merited choices. The question left by the contest is whether new talent is in danger of being overmarketed and overexposed too soon.You can read more opinions on Desai's win or post your own on the Guardian blog.
If you have had not time to read the shortlist, you might like to check out John Crace's very funny digested reads of all the Booker finalists here. An excellent piss-take!
I will post up links to other sources as I find them.
The Guardian blog has a great round-up of what the papers are saying around the world about Kiran Desai's win.
I particularly love the one from the Times of India:
The novel, set in India, was written during trips to India. Kiran said: 'I went back to write the Indian bits in India, so it wasn't entirely from a distance.' Kiran's writer mother, Anita Desai, was not at the awards dinner as she was in India.Erm ... is the author by any chance, Indian?
The blog also quotes the Australian Herald Sun which says that runners-up MJ Hyland and Kate Grenville expressed relief at not having won, which is probably not just putting a brave face on things. The pressure on a winner must be enormous, and being shortlisted perhaps enough reward in itself.
Thank you for your opinions in the comments to this post. I love the Booker and to me whether the best book is finally chosen in the end is not the issue (How do you judge "best" when the books are of such quality, anyway?) but the fact that it's got us all talking and arguing books.
We can argue some more later because the result of the Nobel Prize for Literature is going to be announced today! (12th)
Kiran Desai talks to Laura Barton of the Guardian about her win and why her Indianess is so important to her.