The Jamaican novelist Marlon James won the Man Booker Prize,on Tuesday for his novel "A Brief History of Seven Killings," which uses the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976 to explore Jamaican politics, gang wars and drug trafficking, the New York Times reports.
The Times quoted him as saying "I keep thinking I'm going to wake up or fall into a barrage of tears but I'll keep it together," when accepting the award from the Duchess of Cornwall at a ceremony in London. He dedicated the award to his late father who had shaped his "literary sensibilities".
James is the first Jamaicanâ€“born author to win the prize. The Man Booker, Britain's most prestigious literary award, comes with a cash prize of about $76,000.
Michael Wood, chair of the judges, described A Brief History of Seven Killings as the "most exciting" book on the shortlist. The 680-page epic was "full of surprises" as well as being "very violent" and "full of swearing", according to the BBC. James said a huge part of the novel had been inspired by reggae music, the BBC added. "The reggae singers Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were the first to recognise that the voice coming out our mouths was a legitimate voice for fiction and poetry," he said.
According to Wood, the judges had come to a unanimous decision in less than two hours. He praised the book's "many voices" - it contains more than 75 characters - which "went from Jamaican slang to Biblical heights".
Previous winners of the Man Booker include Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Hilary Mantel. Last year's prize went to the Australian novelist Richard Flanagan, for his deeply researched novel "The Narrow Road to the Deep North," about an Australian surgeon who is captured by the Japanese during World War II and is forced to work on the Thailand-Burma Railway.
The Times noted that the contest for the Booker, first awarded in 1969, grew more heated last year, when the prize was opened up to any novel written in English and published in Britain. Previously, the award was restricted to novelists from Britain, Ireland, Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth nations. The judges considered 156 books this year.
The Telegraph reported that James almost gave up his writing career after receiving 70 rejections for his first novel. He was so despondent that he deleted the novel, John Crow's Devil, from his hard drive and it was only at the urging of a fellow writer that he was persuaded to recover the story and finally saw it published in 2005. His novel "A Brief History of Seven Killings" is his third book.
The six finalists shortlisted for the prize included British novelist Sunjeev Sahota's "The Year of the Runaways," which follows Indian immigrants struggling in England, Nigerian novelist Chigozie Obioma's debut novel "The Fishermen," which unfolds in Nigeria in the 1990s and centers on four brothers whose lives are upended by a troubling prophecy from a madman and Anne Tyler's (the Pulitzer Prize-winning American) book called "A Spool of Blue Thread," a quiet drama about an ordinary middle-class family in Baltimore and American novelist Hanya Yanagihara's wrenching novel, "A Little Life," about four young, ambitious college friends who are building careers in New York while one wrestles with the trauma of past sexual abuse.