A book so haunting it 'kicked the judges in the chest'
Richard Flanagan has won the Man Booker Prize with his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a book so haunting it ‘kicked the judges in the chest’.
The novel, which was inspired by his father’s harrowing experience as a prisoner of war on the Burma-Thailand ‘Death Railway’ during the Second World War, took twelve years and five versions before Flanagan was happy with it.
‘Each one was a failure then I realised that my father was growing old and frail and for no logical reason it mattered to me that I finished the book before he died.’
In a heartbreaking turn of events, on Anzac day, Flanagan told his 98-year-old father that the book was finally finished and he died later that same day.
Of the Man Booker Prize winner, AC Grayling, chair of the judges, said: ‘The best and worst of judging books is when you come across one so hard in the stomach that you can’t pick up the next one for a couple of days, you know you’ve met something extraordinary. That’s what happened in the case of this one.’
As the Australian accepted his £50,000 prize from the Duchess of Cornwall in London, he said: ‘I did not come out of a literary tradition. I come from a mining town in the rainforest on an island at the end of the world.
‘My grandparents were illiterate and I never expected to stand before you in this great hall in London as a writer being so honoured.
‘In Australia, the Man Booker Prize is sometimes seen as something of a chicken raffle. I just didn’t expect to end up with the chicken.’