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Krasznahorkai and writing like a martial-artist

Krasznahorkai and writing like a martial-artist

The Man Booker International Prize winner László Krasznahorkai is a distinctive character. He is no fan of fame and fortune but rather of a monkish lifestyle in the service of art: ‘the artist’s needs are few:’, he suggests, ‘let there be something for him to eat and a place to live, and then every day he should circumambulate the city and country, like mendicants of old . . . The taste of failure in place of success, poverty instead of wealth, anonymity in place of renown.’ Or, as he put it in a phrase that could be pinned on a post-it note above every writer's desk, the artist should live ‘Like a ninja.’ So there you have it.


An interesting recent article contrasted the power of the Nobel Prize for Literature with the Man Booker. Despite being the world's richest literary prize (£630,000) the Nobel, says the writer, fails to initiate a significant jump in the recipient's sales or profile when compared to the Man Booker. The Frenchman Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel, for example, saw his reprints increase by 15,000 copies on winning the prize. No Man Booker winner, on the other hand, has sold fewer than 180,000 copies after triumphing. The piece points out that, ironically, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize have a higher profile as writers than winners of its literature prize: the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai and Al Gore have all written best-sellers. So why does the Man Booker succeed where the Nobel doesn't? The answer, reckons the writer is that by giving readers a ‘flagship’ book the Man Booker offers a clear pointer where to go for quality rather than simply directing them to a writer's entire oeuvre. 


Three-times Man Booker shortlistee Sarah Waters had an interesting response on being named one of the judges for the £25,000 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books: ‘Although I was very interested in science as a child, I've been more at home, as an adult, with literature and theatre. So I'm not a traditional science buff by any means, but fundamentally I'm still interested in how things work, in systems and in processes, and I’m keen to reconnect with that.’ Reading between the lines, the modest Ms Waters seems to be wondering why she was asked. The prize, however, is for a popular science book and, like a fellow Man Booker former judge, Ian McEwan, Waters knows a thing or two about good writing, regardless of the topic.


As the latest series of the epic – and epically bloody – television series Game of Thrones reaches its climax it is interesting to know that at least two Man Booker alumni will be glued to their screens. Margaret Atwood (Man Booker winner in 2000) and Sue Perkins (judge, 2009) are both aficionados of the dragon-rich gorefest. Atwood has likened the show to ‘Ivanhoe with the rape and gutting scenes included. Not to mention the incest, the patricide, and the kiddie murders. Freud goes on the rampage!’ Perkins, on the other hand, notes that ‘the show makes acute comments about humanity, greed and power’ before letting slip that it has another claim on her attention: ‘I broke my toe dancing to the show’s theme tune’.