Ondaatje’s The English Patient wins Golden Man Booker Prize
All previous winners were considered for the one-off accolade to mark the Man Booker’s 50th anniversary.
The English Patient has been crowned the best work of fiction from the last five decades of the Man Booker Prize.
Canadian author Michael Ondaatje’s novel originally won the prestigious award in 1992 and has now gone on to scoop the Golden Man Booker, a one-off accolade to mark the prize’s 50th anniversary.
A panel of five judges considered all 51 of the previous winners, before the top choice from each decade of the Man Booker was put to the public vote.
I’m confident that this special book, chosen by the public, will continue to stand the test of time and delight new readers for many more years to come. Baroness Helena Kennedy of Booker Prize Foundation
The other finalists were In A Free State by V S Naipaul for the 70s, Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively for the 80s, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel for the 2000s and Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders for the 2010s.
The English Patient, which also inspired the Oscar-winning 1996 film from late director Anthony Minghella, is set at the end of the Second World War and revolves around the identity of a badly burned patient and whether he is a French archaeologist or a Nazi spy.
Judge Kamila Shamsie said the story was truly “transformative” as she explained why she had selected it as the winner of the 90s.
“The English Patient is that rare novel which gets under your skin and insists you return to it time and again, always yielding a new surprise or delight,” said the novelist.
She continued: “It’s intricately (and rewardingly) structured, beautifully written, with great humanity written into every page.
“Ondaatje’s imagination acknowledges no borders as it moves between Cairo, Italy, India, England, Canada – and between deserts and villas and bomb craters.
“And through all this, he makes you fall in love with his characters, live their joys and their sorrows.
“Few novels really deserve the praise: transformative. This one does.”
Booker Prize Foundation chair Baroness Helena Kennedy said the story was “a compelling work of fiction”.
“As we celebrate the prize’s 50th anniversary, it’s a testament to the impact and legacy of the Man Booker Prize that all of the winning books are still in print,” she said.
“I’m confident that this special book, chosen by the public, will continue to stand the test of time and delight new readers for many more years to come.”
The Sri Lanka-born writer was announced as the winner at the closing event of the Man Booker 50 Festival at the Royal Festival Hall, which saw Shamsie discuss why she had chosen The English Patient and an extract performed by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.
The other judges of the Golden Man Booker were writer and editor Robert McCrum, poet Lemn Sissay, broadcaster Simon Mayo and poet Hollie McNish.
The prize was founded in 1968 and the first winner was named in 1969.