The satirist becomes the first American writer to ever claim the prestigious British literary award
The 2016 Man Booker Prize was awarded last night in London to The Sellout, making its author Paul Beatty the first American to ever claim one of the most prestigious prizes in literature. The novel, a satire based in Los Angeles, took top honours over five other finalists, winning Beatty the €56,000 prize, and an expected boost in sales around the English-speaking world.
Amanda Foreman, a historian and biographer, announced Beatty as the winner in her capacity as chair of the Booker judges. She described The Sellout as “a novel for our times... Its humour disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.”
Published in the US last year, The Sellout tells the story of a nameless narrator, an African American who grows artisanal marijuana and watermelons in his Los Angeles neighbourhood. When he attempts to reintroduce segregationist laws, he winds up before the US Supreme Court in a case involving slavery.
Beatty, born in California in 1962, started his writing career with poetry, but has since developed into a satirist specialising in exploring the humour of race relations and Black Americans.
The Booker Prize was officially closed to American writers until 2013, having previously only been open to novels published in English by British, Commonwealth, Zimbabwean, and Irish writers. In total, six Irish authors have won the prize since it was launched in 1969, the most recent of which was Anne Enright in 2007.