Marlon James has won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” The fiction prize, which was announced Tuesday evening in London, is one of the most prestigious in the literary world and comes with an award of more than $75,000. James is the first Jamaican ever to win the Man Booker.
“A Brief History of Seven Killings” is set in Jamaica and New York during the 1970s and re-imagines as fiction a real-life assassination attempt on reggae icon Bob Marley, called “The Singer” in the novel. It follows a large cast of characters, including rival Kingston gangsters, a CIA agent and a woman whose life is changed by one night with The Singer.
In his acceptance speech James said he had given up writing 10 years ago, after his first novel had been rejected nearly 70 times. He said that the encouragement of writer Kaylie Jones, who now teaches in the MFA program for Creative Writing and Literature at Stony Brook Southampton, had enabled him to continue.
The novel was chosen from among five finalists announced in September. The others were “Satin Island” by Tom McCarthy of the United Kingdom, “The Fishermen” by Chigozie Obioma of Nigeria, “The Year of the Runaways” by Sunjeev Sahota of the United Kingdom, “A Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler of the United States and “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara of the United States.
This is only the second year that American authors have been eligible for the prize, which was originally open only to writers from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth countries.
Previous winners of the Man Booker include Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel, Yann Martel, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje.