Australian author Richard Flanagan has won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Flanagan, fifty-three, was presented with the award by the Duchess of Cornwall at a ceremony this evening at London's Guildhall. He receives £50,000, or approximately $80,000.
Flanagan is the author of five previous novels and several works of nonfiction. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, published in the U.K. by Chatto & Windus and in the United States by Knopf, tells the story of Australian prisoners of war forced by imperial Japan to construct the Thailand-Burma Death Railway during World War II. Flanagan based the novel on the experiences of his father, who died the day Flanagan finished the book.
For the first time in its forty-six-year history, Britian’s most prestigious literary prize was expanded this year to include writers of any nationality. The decision has been controversial, with the Man Booker Prize Foundation consistently taking heat from the British literary community. The award was previously limited to authors from the U.K. and the British Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland, and Zimbabwe.
Flanagan was chosen from among six short-listed finalists, including the American authors Joshua Ferris for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking) and Karen Joy Fowler for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Putnam); and British authors Howard Jacobson for J (Jonathan Cape), Neel Mukherjee for The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus), and Ali Smith for How to Be Both (Hamish Hamilton). A panel of six judges chose the winner from more than a hundred novels.
New Zealand’s Eleanor Catton won the 2013 prize for her novel The Luminaries. At twenty-eight, Catton became the youngest writer to win the award. Flanagan is the third author from Australia—and the first from the island of Tasmania—to win the prize.