‘Bob Marley’ story pips Sunjeev Sahota to win Booker prize

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Oct 14, 2015 22:49 IST
Marlon James became the first Jamaican winner of the prestigious Booker Prize for fiction. (AFP Photo)

A gripping fictional story of the attempted murder of the iconic reggae singer Bob Marley has been adjudged the winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, beating Indian-origin British writer Sunjeev Sahota and four other short-listed writers.

‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ by Jamaican writer Marlon James was named the winner at a ceremony in the Guildhall here on Tuesday night. The 44-year-old James is the first Jamaican author to win the prize in its 47-year history.

One of six novels short-listed for the prize was Sahota’s political novel, ‘The Year of the Runaways’, based on migrant workers in Sheffield involving three Indian men and one British Indian woman.

James was presented with a trophy at the Guildhall ceremony by the Duchess of Cornwall.

Over 686 pages, James’ book with over 75 characters and voices is set in Kingston, where James was born. Referring to Bob Marley only as ‘The Singer’ throughout, the book retells this near mythic assassination attempt through the myriad voices – from witnesses and FBI and CIA agents to killers, ghosts, beauty queens and Keith Richards’ drug dealer – to create a rich, polyphonic study of violence, politics and the musical legacy of Kingston of the 1970s.

Michael Wood, chair of judges, said: “This book is startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation. It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami”.

“It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.”

In addition to his £50,000 prize and trophy, James also receives a designer bound edition of his book and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted.

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