She delivers: Belfast author Anna Burns scoops Man Booker Prize for 'Milkman'

She delivers: Belfast author Anna Burns scoops Man Booker Prize for 'Milkman'

A "challenging, experimental" novel that might just be easier to read aloud brought Northern Ireland its first ever Man Booker prize success last night.

Writer Anna Burns smiles after she was presented with the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2018 by Britain's Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall during the prize's 50th year at the Guildhall in London.

The victor will be announced during a black-tie ceremony at London's medieval Guildhall.

Born in Belfast in 1962, Burns grew up in a deeply divided region at the height of the sectarian conflict.

"But there are also in each of them moments of hope. So that gets in the way of the creativity".

The "challenging" book is a darkly comic novel about life during the Troubles and details a young girl's disturbing encounters with an older man.

"Milkman", a coming of age story of a young woman's affair with a married man set in the political troubles of Northern Ireland, was named the victor at a lavish awards ceremony here on Tuesday night.

Anna Burns's Milkman was the "unanimous" choice of the panel of jurors, whose chairman, Kwame Anthony Appiah, said it was "enormously rewarding. if you persist with it".

Burns beat five other novelists, including the bookies" favourites: American writer Richard Powers's tree-centric eco-epic "The Overstory" and Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan's "Washington Black', the story of a slave who escapes from a sugar plantation in a hot-air balloon.

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Milkman also defeated fellow finalists The Mars Room, the new novel by Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers), and The Long Take, the novel by poet Robin Robertson.

This year's finalists include three United Kingdom authors, two Americans and a Canadian.

This year's shortlist - whittled down from 13 - pitted four female writers against two men.

"We are honoured to support the Man Booker Prize for the sixteenth year, as it continues in its fiftieth year to champion literary excellence and the power of the novel on a global scale", Ellis said.

The story of an 18-year-old girl's encounters with sex, sectarianism and social coercion in an unnamed province has seen the north Belfast author become the first UK-born victor since Hilary Mantel in 2012.

In 2014, the prize was opened to any novel written in English and published in Britain (it was previously limited to writers from Britain, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Commonwealth countries), and some prominent writers have argued that the rule change has diluted the impact of the prize. Last year's victor was American novelist George Saunders.

Mr Appiah said Ms Burns wrote with a witty, unique voice.

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature at the Arts Council, said: "Milkman is an extraordinary book and is rightly acclaimed as a breathtakingly original novel which is a thrill to read".

"It's challenging in the way a walk up (mount) Snowdon is challenging".

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