The author Paul Beatty, writer of the racial satire piece The Sellout, has become the first US author to win the Man Booker Prize.
If you haven’t read it, The Sellout is a satirical novel which tells the story of a young black man who tries to bring back slavery and segregation in a suburb of Los Angeles.
When Beatty picked up the prestigious £50,000 prize from the Duchess of Cornwall, he was clearly overwhelmed with emotion.
He said: “I hate writing… This is a hard book. It was a hard for me to write, I know it’s hard to read. Everyone’s coming at it from different angles.”
Beatty spoke with BBC Breakfast following his win, and discussed how deeply it affected him.
“Writing’s given me a life. It’s nice to know that something I’ve worked on for the last five years, if not more, has touched people, not only in the States but in the UK. That’s incredible.”
He also touched on an important moment for any writer, that moment when you realise that you have written something powerful, something of note. Something that has the chance to go out and not only be successful, but be challenging and thought provoking.
He said: “I just had a sheaf of papers and started reading and I just lost it. It hit me at that moment that I had written what was in my head… the tone, the language, emotion, the humour, it just all matched. I shocked myself that I was able to do that.”
The Sellout gained the first US victory for the main Booker Prize by beating some stiff competition. It won out against five other novels, Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk, Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen, David Szalay’s All That Man Is and Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
Apparently, it took the judges about four hours to come to their unanimous decision that The Sellout had the chops to be victorious.
Chair of the judges, Foreman, had this to say: “This is a book that nails the reader to the cross with cheerful abandon. But while you are being nailed you are being tickled.” She also called the book a “novel of our times” with an “absolutely savage wit”.
“This is a first-class piece of serious literature wrapped up in a shawl of humour,” she finished.