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Wednesday, October 11, 2006 10:20 am
Kiran Desai Wins the Man Booker
Posted by: Keir Graff

Kiran Desai, daughter of Anita Desai, has won the Booker Prize for her novel, The Inheritance of Loss. Talk about fodder for an interesting dinner conversation: Anita Desai was shortlisted three times without winning, while Kiran Desai won on her first try. Not only that, at 35, she’s the youngest woman ever to win it.

(Also surprised were the bookies, who had her at 5-1, fifth out of six contenders.)

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the novel is set in suburban Toledo, Ohio, a first for the Booker, which is awarded to the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.

Just kidding. It’s set in India. (As have been previous winners The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy; Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie; Staying On, by Paul Scott; Heat and Dust, by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala; and The Siege of Krishnapur, by J. G. Farrell.)

The Guardian calls it “a story replete with sadness over globalisation and with pleasure at the surviving intimacies of Indian village life.” Booklist‘s own Donna Seaman, who gave it a starred review, calls it “perceptive and bewitching.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Guardian story comes near the end, when author John Ezard discusses this year’s winnowing process and the way authors are hyped:

But the publishing market treats novelists as promotable contenders with their first and second books, mature talents by their third, and burned out with their fourth and subsequent titles. This year’s passed-over favourite, The Night Watch, was a fourth novel.

Few of those who have read all the titles disagree that the relative newcomers Matar, Desai, Hyland, and St Aubyn were sound choices. The question left by the contest is whether new talent is in danger of being overexposed too soon.

An interesting point. Your second novel has won the Booker, and now all you have to look forward to is becoming a burned-out fourth-novelist. Cheers!

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