On the evening of 14 October, the Vice Chancellor and I attended the awards ceremony at Guildhall in the City of London. We are invited because the archive of the Booker Prize is held at Brookes in the Library’s Special Collections and Archives. It is always a very enjoyable event and this year was no exception. After the champagne reception in the Old Library we were summoned to the Great Hall for an excellent three course dinner – very brave to do a starter of cheese soufflé for about 350 guests! Before the meal, each of the six short-listed authors were presented with a designer bound copy of their book and Anna Burns (the 2018 winner) spoke passionately about the difference winning the prize had made to her. Between the main course and dessert actors read extracts from each of the six novels.
After dessert, the chair of the judges, Peter Florence, stepped up to the podium to announce the winner – at least that was what was supposed to happen. But then came the shock news that the judges hadn’t been able to agree on a single winner and had insisted that the prize was shared by (in alphabetical order) Margaret Atwood for The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other. Whilst it was lovely to see the two authors walking up to the podium arm-in-arm, most of those present were far from happy with the outcome. In 1974 and 1992 the prize was awarded to two authors and after that the rules were changed to stipulate that there could only be one winner, so there had certainly been disagreements earlier on in the day between the five judges and the Booker Prize Foundation. Hopefully this will lead to some interesting materials being deposited in our Archive! It was great to see Bernadine, a former Creative Writing Fellow at Brookes, receiving (half) the prize.
Dr Helen Workman, Director of Learning Resources