Marlon James has become the first Jamaican-born writer to win the 2015 Man Booker Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious awards for fiction written in English. James’ book, titled “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” explores gang violence in Jamaica through the lens of the 1976 attempted killing of Bob Marley.
In his acceptance speech, James talked about the influence, prestige and importance of the prize. “Booker is that thing you hear about,” he said. “It shapes your writing, it shapes your thinking.”
Five other novelists were shortlisted for the prize, including Hanya Yanagihara, whose novel “A Little Life” was also longlisted for the National Book Award. The other nominees were Tom McCarthy for his work “Satin Island,” Chigozie Obioma for “The Fishermen,” Sunjeev Sahota for “The Year of the Runaways” and Anne Tyler for “A Spool of Blue Thread.”
Chair of Judges Michael Wood noted the diversity represented in the shortlist. The authors on the list ranged in age — Obioma was nominated at 28 for his debut novel, and Anne Tyler, 73, was nominated for her twentieth. Two of the authors on the shortlist were women, and only two of them were white. The subject matter of the novels ranged from 1990s Nigeria to contemporary New York, 1970s Jamaica, and the experience of four Indian migrants in Britain.
The shortlist was also noted for promoting more difficult books. James’ novel, for example, was described by the chairman of judges as ‘not an easy read’.
For winning, James received £50,000, a trophy and a specially bound copy of his book. The award was presented by the Duchess of Cornwall at a black-tie dinner at London’s Guildhall.