Howard Jacobson, author and columnist, has won the Booker Prize for his 11th novel, The Finkler Question. Jacobson’s novel is the first comic novel to win the Booker Prize in the entirety of the award’s 42 year history.
This is the first time that Jacobson has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize after repeatedly making the long list and being denied.
Jacobson joked about his long wait for an award as he accepted the £50,000 prize. He began, ‘I am speechless.’ and as he reached into his pocket said ‘fortunately I prepared one earlier, its dated 1983’
‘I see here there’s another altered acceptance speech from 1994, then 2002 that I appear to have amended only slightly for 2004, 2006 and 2008’
‘Tonight, I forgive everyone. They were only doing their job, those judges, every one of whose names I could reel off.’
Andrew Motion, chairman of the judges, praised The Finkler Question for the way in which its humour, as with all great comedies, was so intimately and fascinatingly connected with tragedy. Motion called the book ‘very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle’.
When asked about the role of the comic novel in a modern age where people feel beset by great social problems Jacobson responded that comedy is not ‘consolation’ it ‘takes us to the truth, takes us to the hard places and makes us look at the hard places’ and enables us to ‘deal with it more fully and still feel invigorated in the face of it’
The decision to award the prize to The Finkler Question was not unanimous. The Judges: Sir Andrew Motion, journalist and broadcaster Tom Sutcliffe, Royal Opera House creative director Deborah Bull, author Frances Wilson and Financial Times literary editor Rosie Blau, voted 3-2 in favour of Jacobson.
Jacobson beat Tom McCarthy’s C which at been the 8/15 bookmakers favourite to win and also denied Peter Carey the title of first author to win the Booker Prize three times. Carey won the Booker in 1998 for Oscar and Lucinda and again in 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang.