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Rushdie, the Best of Booker

WINNING STORYTELLER: Salman Rushdie in Washington in June.

WINNING STORYTELLER: Salman Rushdie in Washington in June.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: AFP

Hasan Suroor

Midnight’s Children beats five previous Booker winners in short-list

LONDON: Salman Rushdie on Thursday effortlessly beat five other fellow literary heavyweights to win the Best of Booker Prize for his path-breaking novel Midnight’s Children. Readers from across the world, defying the conventional wisdom that it is a “difficult” read, voted it as their favourite.

The award, which carries a custom-made trophy but no cash, was announced at the London Literature Festival to mark the 40th anniversary of the Booker Prize.

Sir Salman, who is travelling to promote his new novel The Enchantress of Florence, said in a message that he was “delighted.”

“Marvellous news! I’m absolutely delighted and would like to thank all those readers around the world who voted for Midnight’s Children,” he said.

His sons, Zafar and Milan, received the trophy on his behalf. “It’s a wonderful alternative to have my real children accepting the prize on behalf of my imaginary children,” Sir Salman said.

Midnight’s Children, which won a Booker Prize in 1981 and was chosen for the Booker of Bookers in 1993, was picked from a short-list of six previous Booker winners. That list included Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist (1974); J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999); Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda ( 1988); Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road ( 1995); and J.G. Farrel’s The Siege of Krishnapur (1973).

Rushdie was a front-runner since the day the short-list was announced two months ago. When the voting closed on July 8, over 7,800 people from across the globe had voted for the short-listed titles, with 36 per cent of them voting for Midnight’s Children.

“Votes flooded in from across the world with 37 per cent of online votes coming from the U.K., followed by 27 per cent from North America,” a spokesperson said.

The exact number of votes that Midnight’s Children finally got was not immediately known; it was said to have won by “quite a large margin.”

Victoria Glendinning, the biographer, who chaired the three-member panel that selected the short-list, hailed it as the “right choice.” She added: “The readers have spoken — in their thousands. And we do believe that they have made the right choice.”

Set in post-independent India, with a child born at the stroke of the midnight of 1947 at the heart the story, Midnight’s Children is a sprawling work which will be best remembered for legitimising the use of Indian English. It is credited with putting ‘Hinglish’ on the world map. Some of the Hindi/Urdu words used in the novel have since become part of the “official” English vocabulary.

The Booker Prize, which was first awarded in 1969, has emerged as one of the most prestigious literary honours of the English-speaking world. Other Indians who have won it include V.S. Naipaul for In a Free State; Arundhati Roy for The God of Small Things; and, most recently, Kiran Desai for The Inheritance of Loss.

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