When the Booker Prize Party Ends, What’s Next?
The wine has long gone, the applause has died, guest appearances on TV and radio wind down or at least change in nature (think Western Daily Press instead of The Times). And then what??
The romantic idealists among us would have the winning novelist retreat to a remote Scottish Highland’s cottage to work on their next prize-winner.
What are the chances they will find succeed?
Authors who have managed to win the Booker accolade a second time are in a very elite group. Only four in the 50 years since the prize was inaugurated.
Double Booker Winners
Hilary Mantel became the first woman to twice win the Booker Prize. Wolf Hall, the first of her “Thomas Cromwell” series won in 2009 and the second, Bring Up The Bodies in 2012.
More recently, Margaret Atwood had the unusual honour of being the first person to ever share the prize. She won the Booker Prize in her own right with Blind Assassin in 2000 and then her novel Testaments shared it with Bernardine Evaristo in 2019.
Almost Made It
There have been many authors who, having won the top accolade, went on to get pipped at the prize post.
Salman Rushdie won the Booker Prize in 1981 with Midnight’s Children but go further than the shortlist with his controversial novel Satanic Verses . Ian McEwan won the prize with Amsterdam and was shortlisted for a later novel, Saturday. Having walked off with the prize for The Gathering, Irish author Anne Enright was longlisted for the 2015 prize with The Green Road.
But most other winners, like Ben Okri, Keri Hulme and Yann Martel had their moment of glory and then fizzled out. They’ve continued to write of course but never achieved a repeat of that moment in the spotlight.
Who will win the 2020 award?
The big question now is whether Hilary Mantel can achieve the extraordinary and win for a third time with the final episode in the trilogy: The Mirror and The Light. I’m reading it currently and it’s every bit as good as the first two titles in the trilogy.
But we will have to wait until July 28 when the longlist is announced to get even a sniff of the competition for the 2020 winner. That’s assuming the announcement is not postponed as it was for the winner of the International Booker Prize because readers were having difficulties getting hold of books.
This will be an extraordinary year clearly – as a result of Covid-19, publishers have pushed back the publication dates of many titles that could be prize contenders. The entry rules say all submitted titles have to be published by end of September 2020. So I suspect when the longlist does come out, there will be many books on that list which are yet to be published.
We’ve got used to that in recent years. It’s rare that all the books on the longlist have been published by the time the announcement is made. But this year we may find the majority are yet to hit the bookshops.
If publication dates get pushed out beyond late September some of publishers who submitted titles for consideration back in March might have to pull out and re-enter next year. Unless of course the judges decide in these unprecedented times that they need to be more flexible with the rules.
So far there has been silence from the Booker Prize organisers.
This article was first published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect recent winners of the Booker Prize.