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True love, Man Booker style

True love, Man Booker style

George Saunders, the reigning Man Booker winner, tells a charming story of how he first encountered his wife, Paula Redick: “We met at writing school in Syracuse, New York,” he says. “I was 27. A list was handed out in class with the students’ names and a short biographical sketch. When Paula saw my name, she turned to her friend and said, ‘I’m going to marry that guy. I just know it.’ Into the class I walked, in tight jeans, a flannel shirt and a mullet, and she thought ‘Oh no.’” The “Oh no” can’t have been that wholehearted though because after “a quick engagement . . . we married” and they remain so. What’s more, in a coda that will endear him to every woman in the world but possibly not every man, he added that “Awards are nice, but . . . all I know is my success has been 100% dependent on meeting Paula.”

A note for your diary . . . as part of the celebrations to mark the Man Booker’s 50th birthday a feast of events at London’s Southbank Centre was promised at the beginning of the year. What wasn’t vouchsafed, however, was just what those events might be. Interviews, author appearances, masterclasses and debates were trailed but who with and about what? The big reveal is now imminent, so return to this website at 1.00pm on Wednesday 11th April and the programme for The Man Booker 50 Festival will be laid out for inspection and delectation.

AbeBooks, the second-hand and rare books website, has listed some of the most valuable books published post-2000. Alongside Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men (one of the special numbered deluxe editions – of which only 75 copies were made – can fetch up to $4,500) and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner (first editions, $1,350) are a couple of Man Booker winners. For some reason, the Canadian edition of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is the most coveted and can fetch $2,000, as can a signed first edition of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. This column’s advice is scour your shelves, sell the books and buy cheaper second editions . . . the words inside are exactly the same.

The shortlist for the Dublin Literary Award (formerly the IMPAC Prize) has now been announced. If the Man Booker is the ultimate in prestige then the DLA has an interest all of its own in that it comes with a 100,000 Euros purse – enough to make authors sit up straight. It’s an international award and various Man Booker writers have made the cut. Han Kang, Man Booker International winner in 2016 (and a longlistee on the current 2018 prize) is on it, as is one of the other writers she defeated that year, Marie NDiaye, while also present is Roy Jacobsen, a 2017 Man Booker International nominee. The novelists have until 13th June, when the winner is announced, to ponder what they might spend the cash on.

The translation of Han Kang’s Man Booker International-winning The Vegetarian has recently come under attack (again) from a Korean professor of English literature. Deborah Smith’s work contains errors, he asserted. In one instance “arms” have been mistranslated as “feet” and “green colour” appeared as “green light”. If these are the worst crimes that can be laid at Smith’s door then she needn’t lose sleep. None of the occasional blips materially changes the nature of the novel and indeed the rogue words can be said to perform a public service: spotting the odd malapropism gives people of a particular cast of mind something to do.