Thursday 19 April 2018

Lost but not forgotten as author wins Booker 30 years after death

JG Farrell: was swept out to sea while fishing in 1979
JG Farrell: was swept out to sea while fishing in 1979

John Spain Books Editor

IRISH writer JG Farrell last night won the Lost Booker prize for his novel 'Troubles' -- 40 years after it was first published and 30 years after he drowned tragically.

The prize is a one-off award to honour books published in 1970 that were not eligible for the Booker due to a change in the way the competition was organised.

There was a sad irony in Farrell winning the prize because he himself was lost to the sea in 1979 when he was swept away while fishing from the shoreline in west Cork, where he was living.

It was a particular tragedy because he had been at the height of his powers as a writer at the time.

'Troubles' was published to great acclaim in 1970, the first part of Farrell's 'Empire' trilogy of novels dealing with the changing world at the end of the British Empire.

He won the Booker Prize in 1973 for the second novel in the trilogy, 'The Siege of Krishnapur'.

The final book, 'The Singapore Grip', appeared in 1978.

In 1971 the Booker ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became -- as it is today -- a prize for the best novel of the year of publication.

At the same time, the award moved from April to November and, as a result, many books published in 1970 were never considered for the prize.

Earlier this year, a shortlist of six of these forgotten books was selected by a panel of judges and the international reading public were invited to vote for the one they thought should have got the Booker in 1970.

Voting, via the Man Booker Prize website, took place in April.

The winner was announced in London yesterday evening by the author Lady Antonia Fraser.

The prize, a designer-bound first-edition copy of 'Troubles', was accepted by JG Farrell's brother Richard.


'Troubles' won by a clear majority, taking 38pc of the online votes, more than double the amount cast for any other book on the shortlist, which included other great writers such as Muriel Spark.

The Lost Man Booker Prize was the brainchild of Peter Straus, the archivist to the Booker Prize Foundation, who edited the collection of great novels of the past 50 years published a year ago by the Irish Independent.

"Farrell was one of the best writers of his generation," Mr Strauss told the Irish Independent last night. He said he was "delighted" that 'Troubles' had won and described it as "an indestructible masterpiece" and "one of the greatest novels of its age -- or any age".

Like all Booker winners, 'Troubles' is now likely to become a bestseller again among new readers.

"I hope it will now find a deservedly huge readership," Mr Strauss said.

Set in Ireland in 1919, just after World War One, 'Troubles' tells the tragi-comic story of British army Major Brendan Archer who has gone to visit Angela, a woman he believes may be his fiancee.

Her home, from which he is unable to detach himself, is the dilapidated Majestic, a once grand Irish hotel and all around is the gathering storm of the Irish War of Independence.

Critics at the time said the book brilliantly captured the period, with the crumbling hotel reflecting the crumbling of the old order.

Irish Independent

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment