Paul Beatty has won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for his acclaimed novel The Sellout, becoming the first American writer to do so. The award is determined by a five-person jury, and in this case, the decision was unanimous.
Paul Beatty’s novel “The Sellout,” a blistering satire about race in America, won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday, marking the first time an American writer has won this award.
In the world of book prizes, it’s been a shocking few weeks. First the Nobel prize for literature was given to a musician, and now the UK’s most prestigious literary prize goes to an American.
Beatty’s sharp social satire tackles racial stereotypes with equal parts outrageousness and profundity, exploring the legacy of slavery and racial equality in the U.S.
The Sellout is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US, and by Oneworld in the UK. The book is following the life of a young African-American man from Los Angeles who gets caught up in a race trial that eventually lands him at the doors of the Supreme Court.
I was trying to write a book that would make me blink with each word, that would make me flinch.
The Sellout isn’t just one of the most hilarious American novels in years, it also might be the first truly great satirical novel of the century. It’s dark, nihilistic, pessimistic, and impolite, and it makes a mockery of the dream that things will get better—that a new era of racial harmony is right around the corner.
What leavens “The Sellout” is its humor—the way Beatty lampoons self-important leaders and those naïve enough to believe in them, his ear for how much funnier things get when they’re just a bit off. And then there’s the weight and scandal of the realization, the decaying heart of the matter, when you remember that this is slavery and segregation that Beatty’s joking about.
The Man Booker Prize is awarded annually to a book originally written in English by a writer from any country, and comes with a £50,000 ($61,000) cash prize.