Great Britain's Man Booker Prize, which is awarded annually for the best original novel, devoid of humor but crammed with quality vocabulary words, and written in English by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly known as the British Empire) or the Republic of Ireland, turns 40 this year. Now one hears that a panel of judges was appointed to choose the best overall novel to have won the prize since P.H. Newby snagged it for his 1968 Cold War thriller "Something to Answer For."
As tough as this task sounds, it's made even tougher by the fact that the Booker Prize has rarely been awarded to a novelist for his or her best effort. It's like the Lifetime Achievement Oscar, only for literature. How do you choose between, say, Iris Murdoch's "The Sea, The Sea" (perhaps her fifth-best book) and "The Blind Assassin," Margaret Atwood's worst?
Oh, well. Not that anyone has asked, but I'm casting my vote for Kingsley Amis's "The Old Devils" (1986). Not Amis's best, but at least it's a hoot.
Here's the full list:
1969. Something to Answer For by PH Newby
1970. The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens
1971. In a Free State by VS Naipaul
1972. G by John Berger
1973. The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell
1974. Holiday by Stanley Middleton (shared)
1974. The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer (shared)
1975. Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
1976. Saville by David Storey
1977. Staying On by Paul Scott
1978. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
1979. Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald
1980. Rites of Passage by William Golding
1981. Midnightís Children by Salman Rushdie
1982. Schindlerís Ark by Thomas Keneally
1983. Life & Times of Michael K by JM Coetzee
1984. Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
1985. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
1986. The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis
1987. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
1988. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
1989. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
1990. Possession by A.S. Byatt
1991. The Famished Road by Ben Okri
1992. Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth (shared)
1992. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (shared)
1993. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
1994. How late it was, how late by James Kelman
1995. The Ghost Road by Pat Barker
1996. Last Orders by Graham Swift
1997. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
1998. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
1999. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
2000. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
2001. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
2002. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
2003. Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
2004. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
2005. The Sea by John Banville
2006. Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
2007. The Gathering by Anne Enright
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