In a surprise win, Howard Jacobson was awarded the 2010 Man Booker Prize on Tuesday night in a ceremony in London for his novel "The Finkler Question." Jacobson beat out Tom McCarthy, whose novel "C" had been a favorite among British oddsmakers, and four other books for the honor.
"I am speechless," Jacobson, 68, said as he took the stage, joking, "Fortunately, I prepared one earlier." Jacobson, a native of England who has written 15 books and has a weekly column in the British newspaper the Independent, has twice been long-listed for the Man Booker — in 2002 and 2006 — but this was the first year he made it to the short list.
The Man Booker, the most prestigious award in British publishing, comes with an award of 50,000 pounds or about $79,000; it all but guarantees bestseller status in the United Kingdom. Others in the running for the award were two-time winner Peter Carey for "Parrot & Olivier in America," Andrea Levy for "The Long Song," Damon Galgut for "In a Strange Room" and Emma Donoghue for "Room."
"The Finkler Question," which deals with loss and friendship in the aftermath of an anti-Semitic attack, is a complex, darkly comic novel.
"Like all of his work, 'The Finkler Question' has a kind of energy that you have to look at through your fingers, like an eclipse," Jonathan Safran Foer, the acclaimed author of "Everything Is Illuminated" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," told The Times on Tuesday. "As the brightness of his brilliance is hard to look at, so is the darkness of his humor. I don't know a funnier writer alive.
"He's completely undervalued in the States," Foer added. "This is precisely the kind of thing that will change that."
Last year, the Man Booker meant success in America. "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel, might not seem the kind of book that would find fans outside the U.K. — it's a novelized story of Thomas Cromwell, a minister who served under King Henry VIII in the early 1500s — but it found both critical and commercial success in America. After getting the Man Booker Prize, "Wolf Hall" went on to win the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and become a national bestseller.