Outsider Jacobson wins Booker Prize with comic novel

Outsider Jacobson wins Booker Prize with comic novel

Howard Jacobson tonight won this year’s Man Booker Prize for his comic novel 'The Finkler Question'.

The author was a 10/1 outsider with some bookmakers but picked up the award and £50,000 (€57,000) prize money at a ceremony at Guildhall, central London.

Chairman of the judges and former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion said the tale of two old schoolfriends and their teacher was funny but “so nearly adjacent to tragedy”.

The 58-year-old was born in Manchester and educated at Cambridge University before spells teaching in Wolverhampton and Sydney, Australia.

The five judges made their decision during a one-hour-long meeting which Motion described as “intense” and decided to award Jacobson the prize by a verdict of three to two.

Motion said: “'The Finkler Question' is a marvellous book: very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle. It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize.

“You expect a book by Howard Jacobson to be very clever and very cunning and it is both of those things. It’s highly articulate, everything works in it very well.

“That is what you expect from him but it’s also in an interesting and complicated way a very sad book, a very melancholy book I think, which means that from where I sit it’s absolutely a book for grown ups.”

Jacobson has been longlisted twice before for the prize, in 2006 for 'Kalooki Nights' and in 2002 for 'Who’s Sorry Now', but had never before been shortlisted.

'The Finkler Question' deals with subjects including love, loss, male friendship and what it means to be Jewish.

Motion said: “The kind of comedy it is is so nearly adjacent to sadness that it would be a mistake simply to describe this as a comic novel.

“It doesn’t really matter which way round you put it but it is either a very funny book with very sad bits in it or it’s a very sad book with very funny bits in it.”

Jacobson said the book was about “sorrow”.

He said: “I think I’m talking about loss.

“I wanted to make the reader laugh and weep at the same moment.”

He can expect a huge increase in sales and recognition around the world after being crowned winner.

Each of the six shortlisted authors receives £2,500 (€2,838) and a designer-bound edition of their book.

The decision will be welcomed by bookmakers who feared a six-figure payout if the favourite, Tom McCarthy’s 'C', had won.

They slashed the odds on it after a series of big bets made it the heaviest-backed Booker contender ever.

Jacobson, who has long been tipped as a possible winner, said: ``I'm speechless.

“Fortunately I prepared one earlier. It’s dated 1983, that is how long the wait’s been.”

He went on to thank the judges, his old grammar school teachers and his mother who he said taught him “to love literature”.

Jacobson, who has long been tipped as a possible winner, said: ``I'm speechless.

“Fortunately I prepared one earlier. It’s dated 1983, that is how long the wait’s been.”

He went on to thank the judges, his old grammar school teachers and his mother who he said taught him “to love literature”.

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