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Game of Man Bookers

Game of Man Bookers

If you’ve ever wondered what the inspiration behind Game of Thrones might be, it is unlikely that you will have alighted on two Man Booker Prize winners. David Benioff, co-creator of the mega-hit television series, nevertheless credits Aravind Adiga and Kingsley Amis as aspirational figures. Asked to list some of his favourite books recently, Benioff came up with Adiga’s The White Tiger, Man Booker Prize winner in 2008, and Amis’s Lucky Jim, which wasn’t in fact his Man Booker Prize winning book, that was The Old Devils of 1986. Not that the plots of either book are reflected in the grapplings for the Seven Kingdoms – both are light on sword-play and dragons - but they are notable for their style. Benioff soaks up good writing: ‘Sometimes I get jealous when I’m reading a great book by a younger writer. But White Tiger is so good I almost forgot to hate Aravind Adiga.’ Given the seriously sticky ends many of Game of Thrones’s characters come to this is undoubtedly a good thing for Adiga.

Salman Rushdie’s 1981 Man Booker winner Midnight’s Children also went on to win a brace of Best of Booker awards in 1993 and 2008. The novel describes events around the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan – independence was declared on 15th August, 1947 – 70 years ago. To mark the occasion Radio Four will be broadcasting an eight-part adaption starting on the anniversary day. Surprisingly it is the first adaptation spawned by the novel, although 20 years ago a television version was just about to start filming in Sri Lanka when objections by local Muslims caused it to be cancelled. Despite so much tumultuous water under his personal bridge, the novel still takes Rushdie by surprise: ‘I don’t know how I had the gumption to do it. I’d be too scared now.’

Something for your bookshelves, possibly: Anna Auguscik’s Prizing Debate: The Fourth Decade of the Booker Prize and the Contemporary Novel in the UK, published by Transcript-Verlag, is, according to the blurb, ‘a study of the literary marketplace in the early 2000s. Focusing on the Man Booker Prize and its impact on a novel's media attention.’ The author ‘analyses the mechanisms by which the prize recognizes books triggering debates, in addition to how it itself becomes the object of such debates’. What’s more the book describes the Man Booker as a ‘problem-driven attention-generating mechanism’ whose influence can only be understood in relation to other participants in literary interaction’. Auguscik teaches English literature at the University of Oldenburg, Germany and her book costs a hefty $45. This column has catholic tastes so it might be worth pointing out that Paul Beatty’s current Man Booker Prize champion novel, The Sellout, retails at a very modest £8.99.

The new Man Booker International Prize winner, David Grossman, continues to make waves, albeit inadvertently. A play based on his David Cohen Prize-winning novel To The Ends of the Land is due to air in New York on 24th July as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. The play has drawn the ire of anti-Israel groups and attracted a petition by actors and other theatre folk calling for it to be cancelled. The reasoning behind the petition being that the play has the support of Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America. There is a real irony here in that Grossman’s novel is by no means a pro-Israel work. Grossman is known for his sceptical stance towards his own government’s policy towards Palestine and the novel tells the story of a mother searching the length and breadth of Israel looking for her son who has been killed while serving in the Israeli Army. It makes one wonder if the petitioners have actually read Grossman’s book. The Lincoln Center has rejected the call to cancel the play.

Aravind Adiga