The 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction was awarded on Monday to two authors: Margaret Atwood for The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other.
The Booker Prize has been jointly awarded twice before, to Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton in 1974 and to Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth in 1992. In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. This is the first time since then that two authors have been announced as joint-winners. The winners will share the £50,000 prize money.
It is the second time that Atwood has won the Booker Prize, after taking the award in 2000 for The Blind Assassin. She has been shortlisted for four further books: The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), Cat’s Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996) and Oryx and Crake (2003).
Bernardine Evaristo is the first black woman to be awarded the Booker Prize. Girl, Woman, Other, is her eighth fiction body; she has also written essays and drama.
Evaristo drew on aspects of the African diaspora, be it past, present, real or imagined, to inform Girl, Woman, Other.
“This ten month process has been a wild adventure. In the room today we talked for five hours about books we love. Two novels we cannot compromise on. They are both phenomenal books that will delight readers and will resonate for ages to come,” said the chair of the 2019 judges, Peter Florence.
According to Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, the judges asked if they could split the prize. “On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them,” she said.
Canadian novelist Atwood was born in 1939, and is the author of more than fifty books.The Testaments takes up the story of The Handmaid’s Tale fifteen years on, exploring how the Republic of Gilead has maintained its theocratic control.
Bernardine Evaristowas born in London in 1959. An Anglo-Nigerian, her work explores aspects of the African diaspora.
She is a professor of creative writing at Brunel University London and Vice Chair of the Royal Society of Literature. Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of 12 very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.