Paul Beatty becomes the first American to win the Man Booker Prize.

by |October 26, 2016


54-year-old Los Angeles-born writer Paul Beatty has taken out the £50,000 Man Booker Prize and title for 2016 for his book, The Sellout.

Historian Amanda Foreman, who chaired this year’s judging panel, said it took the judges almost four hours to reach the unanimous decision, to award Beatty the prize; a prize that in the Man Booker’s 48-year history, has not been awarded to an American.

The winner was announced on 25 October at a black tie dinner at London’s Guildhall; Camilla, the Dutchess of Cornwall, presented the award.

(L-R) Luke Ellis, Winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize for his novel 'The Sellout', Paul Beatty, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Dr Amanda Foreman attend the 2016 Man Booker Prize at The Guildhall on October 25, 2016 in London, England. REUTERS/John Phillips/Pool

(L-R) Luke Ellis, Paul Beatty, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Dr Amanda Foreman.

The BBC reported that Beatty was overcome with emotion and struggled for words as he began his acceptance speech.

“I hate writing,” he admitted.

“This is a hard book,” he went on. “It was a hard for me to write, I know it’s hard to read. Everyone’s coming at it from different angles.”

It’s “hard” predominantly because of the content of the novel – Bonbon, the narrator seeks to reinstate slavery and segregate his local high school in Dickens, California, an ‘agrarian ghetto’ that has been removed from the map to save California the embarrassment. What follows is a remarkable journey that challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life and the civil rights movement.

Foreman goes on to say that The Sellout “is a first-class piece of serious literature wrapped up in a shawl of humour… a book that nails the reader to the cross with cheerful abandon. But while you are being nailed you are being tickled.”

“It manages to eviscerate every social taboo and politically correct nuance… While making us laugh, it also makes us wince. It is both funny and painful at the same time.”


Beatty has previously published three novels, Slumberland, Tuff and The White Boy Shuffle.

The shortlisted authors will each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. They are Otessa Moshfegh for Eileen, Madeleine Thien for Do Not Say We Have Nothing, David Szalay for All That Man Is, Graeme Macrae Burnet for His Bloody Project and Deborah Levy for Hot Milk.


The 2016 Man Booker Prize shortlisted authors

This is the second consecutive Man Booker Prize win for independent publisher Oneworld; they also represented last year’s winner Marlon James and his A Brief History of Seven Killings.

The Selloutby Paul Beatty

The Sellout

Winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize

by Paul Beatty

A biting American satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court.

Born in the 'agrarian ghetto' of Dickens - on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles - the narrator of The Sellout is raised by his single father, a controversial sociologist, and spends his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. Led to believe that his father's pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes, he is shocked to discover...

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About the Contributor

Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the former editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.


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