14 October 2014
The Tasmanian-born author is the third Australian to win the coveted prize which, for the first time in its 46-year history, is now expanded to include entries from writers of all nationalities, writing originally in English and published in the UK. He joins an impressive literary canon of former winners including fellow Australians Thomas Kenneally (Schindler’s Ark, 1982) and Peter Carey (Oscar & Lucinda, 1988 and The True History of the Kelly Gang, 2001).
The Narrow Road to the Deep North is the sixth novel from Richard Flanagan, who is considered by many to be one of Australia’s finest novelists. It centres upon the experiences of surgeon Dorrigo Evans in a Japanese POW camp on the now infamous Thailand-Burma railway. The Financial Times calls it ‘elegantly wrought, measured and without an ounce of melodrama… nothing short of a masterpiece.’
Named after a famous Japanese book by the haiku poet Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is described by the 2014 judges as ‘a harrowing account of the cost of war to all who are caught up in it’. Questioning the meaning of heroism, the book explores what motivates acts of extreme cruelty and shows that perpetrators may be as much victims as those they abuse. Flanagan’s father, who died the day he finished The Narrow Road to the Deep North, was a survivor of the Burma Death Railway.
Richard Flanagan was announced as the 2014 winner by AC Grayling, Chair of judges, at an awards dinner at London’s Guildhall, which was broadcast live on the BBC News Channel. Flanagan was presented with a trophy from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and a £50,000 cheque from Emmanuel Roman, Chief Executive of Man Group. The investment management firm has sponsored the prize since 2002.
AC Grayling comments: ‘The two great themes from the origin of literature are love and war: this is a magnificent novel of love and war. Written in prose of extraordinary elegance and force, it bridges East and West, past and present, with a story of guilt and heroism.
‘This is the book that Richard Flanagan was born to write.’
In addition to his £50,000 prize and trophy, Flanagan also receives a designer bound edition of his book, and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted. On winning the Man Booker Prize, an author can expect international recognition, not to mention a dramatic increase in book sales. Sales of Hilary Mantel’s winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, have exceeded a million copies in their UK editions, published by Fourth Estate. Her novels have subsequently been adapted for stage and screen, with the highly acclaimed theatre productions of both novels arriving on Broadway in April 2015. Granta, publisher of Eleanor Catton’s 2013 winner, The Luminaries, has sold 300,000 copies of the book in the UK and almost 500,000 worldwide.
AC Grayling, philosopher and author, was joined on the 2014 panel of judges by: Jonathan Bate, Oxford Professor of English Literature and biographer; Sarah Churchwell, UEA’s Professor of American Literature; Daniel Glaser, neuroscientist and cultural commentator; Alastair Niven, former Director of Literature at the British Council and at the Arts Council, and Erica Wagner, former literary editor and writer.