Wednesday, October 17, 2007
LONDON, Oct. 16 -- Anne Enright has won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction with "The Gathering," a fearless evocation of how dark secrets shape one Irish family, topping favorites Ian McEwan and Lloyd Jones in the contest for Britain's most prestigious literary award.
Fusing melancholic lyricism with tart wit, Enright's fourth novel was chosen over works by McEwan, Jones and three lesser-known finalists for the $102,000 cash award given at a black-tie dinner in London's medieval Guildhall.
Enright is the fourth Irish-born author to win the contest, following John Banville's victory in 2005 for "The Sea," an equally bleak yet lyrical novel. Her triumph also marks the seventh time in the past 20 years that a woman has won the award, which is sponsored by hedge-fund company Man Group PLC and carries the promise of an almost certain increase in sales.
Enright herself has called "The Gathering" (Cape) "the intellectual equivalent of a Hollywood weepie." The plot is driven by the suicide of prodigal son Liam Hegarty, one of nine children in a staunchly Irish Catholic clan.
"We found it a very powerful, uncomfortable and even at times angry book," said the chairman of the judging panel, Howard Davies, the former head of the U.K. Financial Services Authority and a longtime book reviewer. "It's an unflinching look at a grieving family in tough and striking language."
Other finalists included Mohsin Hamid's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (Hamish Hamilton), a portrait of a Princeton-educated Pakistani whose American dream sours after Sept. 11, 2001; Indra Sinha's "Animal's People" (Simon & Schuster), which imagines life for a man left hideously crippled by a Bhopal-style toxic leak; and Nicola Barker's "Darkmans" (Fourth Estate), a contemporary ghost story set in commuter-belt England.
Enright is a graduate of the University of East Anglia's masters program in creative writing, which has produced writers including previous Man Booker winners McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro.
"We expect to hear a lot more from her," said Davies, who acknowledged that her subject matter was "a little bit bleak."
"She is very vivid in her use of bodily metaphors and indeed rather brutal in her descriptions of bodily parts, which some people might find slightly shocking, I guess," he said.