Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have been jointly awarded with the 2019 Booker Prize, respectively for their novels The Testaments and Girl, Woman, Other. The authors will also divide the £50,000 prize.
The prize has been split twice before, between Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton in 1974, and Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth in 1992. After the 1992 tie, organisers changed the rules of the competition, strictly limiting chances of a tie between two nominees. This year, nonetheless, after five hours of discussions, judges decided to flout the rules, since they appreciated both novels so deeply, that they couldn’t find a winner.
As, Peter Florence, the chair of the judges, said: “It was our decision to flout the rules. The more we talked about them, the more we found we loved them both so much we wanted them both to win”.
Atwood becomes the oldest ever Booker winner and the second female author to win the award twice. She joked with Evaristo about the tie: “I would have thought I would have been too elderly, and I kind of don’t need the attention, so I’m very glad that you’re getting some. It would have been quite embarrassing for me… if I had been alone here, so I’m very pleased that you’re here too”.
On the other hand, Evaristo is the first British woman of colour to win the prize and confessed: “Winning is a real game changer. It means my work gets out there to a much wider audience around the world. There are lots of prizes which people from certain communities don’t win, certainly black people don’t win lots of literary awards. No one seems to notice, but it’s really important”.