You are here

Man Booker winner "on drugs"

Man Booker winner "on drugs"

If it was good enough for Coleridge then it's good enough for the Man Booker pin-up Hilary Mantel. Drugs helped the Romantic poet summon up his vision of Xanadu and its stately pleasure domes and a large dose of morphine helped Mantel resolve problems with the title story of her forthcoming collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. There was, however, nothing illicit about the experience: Mantel was in hospital and “full of morphine” so she “simply stayed up all night making up stories. And one of the things that happened was that I saw the assassin. I knew exactly who he was. So the missing piece of that story dropped into place.” Asked whether she might repeat the dose to get more inspiration she was clear that Class A (or B, C or D) drugs do not lead to Class A writing: “It was a one-off. For every profitable idea, I think, 10 are going to be garbage. My problem is never ideas. My problem is time.” So, would-be writers, listen to Hilary and just say “No.”

The winner of the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction – a sister prize of the Man Booker – has just been announced. The Iraqi novelist, poet and screenwriter Ahmed Saadawi picked up the $50,000 prize (which also comes with the promise of a translation of his book into English) for Frankenstein in Baghdad. The novel, which beat 155 other entries, tells the story of Hadi al-Attag, a Baghdad rag-and-bone man who builds a new body from the limbs of those killed in explosions. The Frankenstein's monster is entered by a displaced soul and comes alive to take revenge on the people who killed those whose parts make up his body. The prize, designed to encourage and disseminate Arabic fiction, is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation.

There is a decent Man Booker showing on the just-announced Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) shortlists. Eleanor Catton is there with The Luminaries in the International Book of the Year category, while Tim Winton (Booker shortlisted in 1995 for The Riders) with Eyrie and Christos Tsiolkas (Man Booker longlisted in 2010 for The Slap) with Barracuda compete in the Literary Fiction category which begs the question what is The Luminaries then, chick-lit? Sword-and-sorcery? The winners will be announced on 23rd May.

Salman Rushdie, Man Booker winner in 1981 and Best of the Booker winner in 2008, obviously knows a thing or two about writers oppressed by authoritarian regimes. It is perhaps unsurprising then that he is one of the authors who have written to the Chinese president complaining about the treatment of the Uighur writer and scholar Ilham Tohti. Tohti is currently in prison charged with separatism. Rushdie is one of an impressive phalanx of writers to add their names to the protest. Others include James Salter, Siri Hustvedt, and Don DeLillo. It now remains to be seen how much of a reader is President Xi Jinping.