Final chapter of Man Booker International

19 May 2011

(L-R) Rick Gekoski with finalist David Malouf.
(L-R) Rick Gekoski with finalist David Malouf.

Philip Roth was unveiled as the fourth winner of the Man Booker International Prize at the Sydney Writers' Festival yesterday.

Roth was one of the 13 finalists announced at the University of Sydney on 30 March this year.

The announcement was made at the Sydney Opera House by the chair of the judging panel, the writer, academic and rare-book dealer, Dr Rick Gekoski.

"For more than 50 years Philip Roth's books have stimulated, provoked and amused an enormous, and still expanding, audience. His imagination has not only recast our idea of Jewish identity, it has also reanimated fiction, and not just American fiction, generally," Dr Gekoski said.

"Roth's career is remarkable in that he starts at such a high level, and keeps getting better. In his 50s and 60s, when most novelists are in decline, he wrote a string of novels of the highest, enduring quality. Indeed, his most recent, Nemesis (2010), is as fresh, memorable, and alive with feeling as anything he has written. His is an astonishing achievement."

The Man Booker International judging panel, which this year also included publisher, writer and critic Carmen Callil, and award-winning novelist Justin Cartwright, spend 18 months choosing a winner.

Gekoski commented that the process of reading the many fine writers considered by the panel confirmed his belief that "reading at its best is the best thing one does". He also confessed that, typically for a book prize, the choice of Roth was not a unanimous decision.

The 13 finalists announced earlier this year at the University of Sydney are, in alphabetical order:

  • Wang Anyi (China)
  • Juan Goytisolo (Spain)
  • James Kelman (UK)
  • John le Carré (UK)
  • Amin Maalouf (Lebanon)
  • David Malouf (Australia)
  • Dacia Maraini (Italy)
  • Rohinton Mistry (India/Canada)
  • Philip Pullman (UK)
  • Marilynne Robinson (USA)
  • Philip Roth (USA)
  • Su Tong (China)
  • Anne Tyler (USA)

The Man Booker International Prize, worth £60,000, is awarded for an achievement in fiction on the world stage. It is presented once every two years to a living author for a body of work published either originally in English or widely available in translation in the English language. It has previously been awarded to Ismail Kadaré in 2005, Chinua Achebe in 2007 and Alice Munro in 2009.

Philip Roth was born in March 1933 in New Jersey and is best known for his 1969 novel Portnoy's Complaint, and for his late-1990s trilogy comprising the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Pastoral (1997), I Married a Communist (1998), and The Human Stain (2000).

Roth is the most decorated living American writer. He won the National Book Award at 26, has won two National Book Critics Circle awards and three PEN/Faulkner awards. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1998 and in 2001 he was awarded the gold medal for fiction by The American Academy of Arts and Letters. His most recent awards include the PEN/Nabokov Award in 2006, and in 2007 he became the first recipient of the Pen/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

Roth's award will be celebrated at a formal dinner in London on 28 June 2011.

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