The English Patient wins Golden Man Booker Prize

LONDON • Readers are still in love with The English Patient, a wartime love story by Michael Ondaatje (above), which won the Golden Man Booker Prize on Sunday night.

The one-off award, voted for by the public, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the prize.

The shortlist of five novels was selected by a panel of judges from the 51 previous winners of the Man Booker, which honours the best novels written in English and published in Britain or Ireland.

"The English Patient is a compelling work of fiction - both poetic and philosophical," Baroness Helena Kennedy, chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, said.

Born in 1943 in Sri Lanka, Ondaatje now lives in Canada.

The English Patient, which follows the lives of four characters brought together during World War II, is told through the morphine-affected memories of a severely burnt patient. It was a Booker Prize winner in 1992.

In a review in The New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote: "Reading The English Patient, you hold on to the gunnel and your hat at the start. But by the end, you find yourself resting on the bottom of the boat, with your hat over your face to keep off Mr Ondaatje's too brilliant prose."

The film adaptation, starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ralph Fiennes, won nine Academy Awards in 1997, including best picture.

Each of the judges for the Golden Man Booker Prize was allocated a decade from the prize's history and tasked with selecting the best work from it. The public then voted on the shortlist.

The winner last year, Lincoln In The Bardo, by George Saunders, was selected by poet Hollie McNish.

Simon Mayo, a novelist-broadcaster, chose the 2009 prize winner Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

Poet Lemn Sissay picked Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, the winner in 1987.

And Robert McCrum, a writer-editor, selected In A Free State by V.S. Naipaul, which won in 1971.

The English Patient was selected by novelist Kamila Shamsie to represent the 1990s.

Shamsie said: "The English Patient is that rare novel which gets under your skin and insists you return to it time and again, always yielding a new surprise or delight."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2018, with the headline 'The English Patient wins Golden Man Booker Prize'. Print Edition | Subscribe