Winning the Booker in the ‘Woke’ Climate

Anita Singh had an article in the Daily Telegraph on 30 November 2020 under the title “I wouldn’t win the Booker in ‘woke’ climate says Banville”.

Anita Singh is the Arts and Entertainment Editor of the Daily Telegraph.

Anita Singh

In the article, Ms Singh writes: “John Banville, winner of the 2005 Booker Prize, has suggested that he wold not be given it now because he is a straight, white male, and he likened the ‘woke movement’ to a religious cult.

“The Irish author, whose winning novel The Sea told the story of a retired art historian who returns to the village where he spent a childhood holiday, was asked in an interview for the winter edition of the Hay Festival if it would be possible for someone like him to win the prize at a time of ‘woke suspicion of white, straight men’.

“He replied, ‘I would not like to be starting out now. It’s very difficult. I despise this woke movement. Why were they asleep for so long? The same injustices were going on. It’s become a religious cult. You see people kneeling in the street, holding up their fists. That’s not going to do anything for black people.’

Banville also writes crime novels under a pen name, Benjamin Black, but he said he was appalled by the increasingly graphic nature of violence in other writers’ crime books. ‘I don’t want to go back to the Agatha Christie thing where somebody gets shot but there’s no blood, but the glory in slaughter – I’m speechless,’ he said.

“Last year, the Booker prize was split between two women, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo. This year’s winner, Shuggie Bain, was written by Douglas Stuart, a white Scot, about his childhood in Eighties Glasgow, where he grew up with his alcoholic mother.

“The author, now resident in New York, told the Telegraph after his win: ‘People sometimes want to know if I’m a Scottish writer or an American writer, or a working class writer or a gay writer, but the truth is I’m all of those things and hopefully a few other things, too.’

“When Banville took the prize, he said in his speech. ‘It’s nice to see a work of art winning the Booker Prize.’ John Sutherland, the chairman of the judges, called it ‘a masterly study of grief, memory and love recollected.'”

I’m not convinced that the woke movement has such a great effect on the Booker, but I think Banville has a point when he suggests that the movement is more focused in achieving attention rather than change.

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