Forty years after it was first published, Troubles, by J G Farrell, is today (Wednesday 19 May), announced as the winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize – a one-off prize to honour the books published in 1970, but not considered for the prize when its rules were changed.
It won by a clear majority, winning 38% of the votes by the international reading public, more than double the votes cast for any other book on the shortlist.
Troubles is the first in Farrell’s Empire Trilogy, which was followed by The Siege of Krishnapur (1973) and The Singapore Grip (1978). The Siege of Krishnapur won the Booker Prize in 1973 and was shortlisted for the Best of the Booker, a special award created to mark the 40th anniversary of the prize in 2008.
J G Farrell died in 1979.
Set in Ireland in 1919, just after the First World War, Troubles tells the tragic-comic story of Major Brendan Archer who has gone to visit Angela, a woman he believes may be his fiancée. Her home, from which he is unable to detach himself, is the dilapidated Majestic, a once grand Irish hotel, and all around is the gathering storm of the Irish War of Independence.
The Guardian wrote, “The evidence of change and decay at the Majestic is no parochial phenomenon and it is this feeling of the particular reflecting the universal, a feeling so successfully pervading page after page of this clever book that makes it a tour de force.”
The winning book was voted for via the Man Booker Prize website, chosen from a shortlist of six selected by a panel of three judges, all of whom were born in or around 1970. They are journalist and critic, Rachel Cooke, ITN newsreader, Katie Derham and poet and novelist, Tobias Hill. The shortlist included The Birds on the Trees by Nina Bawden (Virago); The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard (Virago); Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault (Arrow); The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark (Penguin); The Vivisector by Patrick White (Vintage).
Ion Trewin, Literary Director of the Man Booker Prizes comments, ‘Troubles is a novel of such lasting quality that it has never been out of print in the 40 years since it was first published. Had this been the winning novel in 1970, JG Farrell would have gone on to become the first author to win the Booker Prize twice.”
The Lost Man Booker Prize was the brainchild of Peter Straus, honorary archivist to the Booker Prize Foundation. It was created to honour the books of 1970 which missed out on the chance to win the prize when it ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became – as it is today – a prize for the best novel of the year of publication.
The winner was announced by Lady Antonia Fraser, who was a judge for the Booker Prize in both 1970 and 1971, at a celebratory party at 33 Fitzroy Square, in London. The prize, a designer-bound first edition copy of the book, was accepted by J G Farrell’s brother, Richard Farrell, on the author’s behalf.
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About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.