Marlon James wins Booker Prize with A Brief History of Seven Killings

Booker Prize Winner

As we’re sure you are aware, the Man Booker’s award for Fiction was awarded on 13th October 2015 (for the forty-seventh time). During the Ceremony at London’s Guildhall, Marlon James was given this year’s crown, for his epic novel ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings‘. For the second year now, the prize has been open to writers of any nationality, so long as their work is published in English. If it wasn’t not this change, the Jamaican author would never have received the £50,000 prize money. As well as the prize money, which makes the Man Booker’s award one of the world’s richest literary prizes, the winner is almost certainly guaranteed international renown and success.

Not only was James the first Jamaican writer to win the prize, he was the first Jamaican writer to ever be shortlisted for the prize. The 44 year-old lives in Minneapolis. He studied Language and Literature at the University of West Indies, where he graduated in 1991. He then went on to study his master’s in creative writing, which he received in 2006 from Wilkes University. On receiving his prize, he dedicated it to his late father, who he said he used to have Shakespeare soliloquy duels with – competing to have the longest soliloquy. He also notes Charles Dickens as one of his literary inspirations, and it is clear that their imagination levels are almost on par. In addition to ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’, James has also published ‘John Crow’s Devil’ (2005) and ‘The Book of Night Women’ (2009). James expressed that he would have been happy with only two people enjoying his latest work, due to it being his riskiest yet in terms of subject matter; he did not expect the recognition, which we all think is so well deserved.

Although claiming to be a ‘brief history’, the book is anything but, spanning over 686 pages and several decades. The first decade puts the spotlight on the events in Jamaica in the late 1970s, namely the attempted assination of Bob Marley in 1976. Then James explores the crack wars in New York City, which took place in the 1980s. The following decade studies the changes in Jamaica in 1990s. The book has been said not to be for the faint at heart, due to it’s focus on shocking gang violence, drug crime and graphic sex, as well as its use of swearing throughout. However, readers of the book are encouraging others not to be put off by these themes, claiming it to be a book full of laughs, relatability and real emotion. Michael Wood states “A lot of it is very, very funny, a lot of it is very human.” The book has been described as being extremely eye opening, and a beneficial read. A strong feature of the novel, is James’ ability to depict the political instability through the perspectives of the main characters. The judges were not shy about the fact that the novel was an easy winner for the award, resulting in a quick and unusual unanimous decision.

As well as the Man Booker’s award, ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ also won the fiction category of the 2015 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. It was even chosen as the best book of the year by Wired, GQ, BBC Culture and New York Times. We think Michiko Kakutani, from New York Times, captured the essence of the book perfectly, that ‘It’s like a Tarantino remake of “The Harder They Come” but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner, with maybe a little creative boost from some primo ganja.”

We know that you won’t regret reading this book, even if it means stepping out of your literary comfort zone!

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