Richard Flanagan, considered by many to be one of Australia’s finest novelists, was last night announced as the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’.
Born in Tasmania, he is the third Australian author to win the coveted prize, which now includes entries from writers of all nationalities, writing originally in English and published in the UK.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North is his sixth novel and 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. The author’s father, who died the day he finished The Narrow Road to the Deep North, was a survivor of the Burma Death Railway.
Chair of the judges, AC Grayling announced the result at London’s Guildhall. The event was broadcast live on the BBC and Flanagan was presented with a trophy by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall together with a £50,000 cheque from Emmanuel Roman, Chief Executive of Man Group. AC Grayling said: ‘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.’
Several copies of Flanagan’s book are on order; if you want to read the shortlist, titles as follows: