J.G. Farrell's "Troubles" wins "lost" Booker Prize

1970 award was never given out because of a scheduling quirk. The author died in 1979

By Jill Lawless

Published May 19, 2010 6:43PM (EDT)

A tragicomic historical novel about the relationship between Britain and Ireland won literature's prestigious Booker Prize on Wednesday, four decades after missing out because of a scheduling quirk.

J.G. Farrell's "Troubles" was awarded the "lost" Booker Prize for works published in 1970, a year when no prize was handed out. Set in 1919, the novel is about an English army officer ensconced in a crumbling Irish hotel, scarcely aware of the war for independence breaking out around him.

Farrell was chosen over five other finalists: Patrick White's "The Vivisector," Mary Renault's "Fire From Heaven," Nina Bawden's "The Birds on the Trees," Shirley Hazzard's "The Bay of Noon" and Muriel Spark's "The Driver's Seat."

Farrell, who drowned while fishing on the Irish coast in 1979, also won the Booker in 1973 for "The Siege of Krishnapur." Those two novels -- along with a later book, "The Singapore Grip" -- form a trilogy exploring the end of the British Empire.

Television news anchor Katie Derham, one of three judges who chose the finalists, said the prize should bring a new generation of readers to the author, whose reputation has faded since his death at 44.

"He was this great talent whose life was cut short," she said. "I think at the time he was building up into someone we would all have heard of and studied at school."

The shortlist was selected by a jury whose members were all born "in or around" 1970. The winner was decided by public vote on the Booker website. Organizers said Farrell's book had 38 percent of the votes, more than double the support of any other title.

Of the shortlisted authors, only Bawden and Hazzard are still alive, but all the books remain in print.

The Booker Prize -- officially named the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, Man Group PLC -- was first handed out in 1969, and is open to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth.

The prize was originally awarded for books published the previous year. But in 1971, it became a prize for the best novel published that year -- leaving novels published in 1970 out in the cold.

The Lost Booker is the third special prize to be created by the organization. To mark the prize's 25th anniversary, a "Booker of Bookers" was created and in 2008, the 40th anniversary, there was a "Best of the Booker" award. Salman Rushdie won both prizes with his novel "Midnight's Children."


Online: http://www.themanbookerprize.com

Jill Lawless

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