The final signed sketch in this week’s writers series is Dame Hilary Mantel, who I was lucky to meet after her second appearance at the Man Booker 50 Series, the weekend long festival dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize at various venues in London’s Southbank Centre. Dame Hilary has won the Booker twice-the first British author and only woman to win it more than once.
In 2009 WOLF HALL, the fictional account of Thomas Cromwell’s rapid rise to power the court of Henry VIII collected the award and three years later the sequel to the dark Tudor tale, BRING UP THE BODIES repeated the win.
The third instalment in the Cromwell trilogy, THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT is in progress. Described by the judges as an “extraordinary piece of storytelling”, this very modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th Century, the 650 page WOLF HALL was also one of the five shortlisted books for the special one-off Golden Man Booker anniversary prize, to select the best work of fiction over the five decades of Britain’s most prestigious literary accolade.
I managed to catch Dame Hilary as she left the Purcell Room on Saturday afternoon , where she signed this quick portrait sketch for me.
It’s always nice to catch up with a fellow kiwi in London, and in this case a very distinguished New Zealander, Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton. Born in Canada, while her father completed his doctorate at the University of Western Ontario, she grew up in Christchurch on east coast of NZ’s South Island. Eleanor’s second novel, THE LUMINARIES won the Man Booker Prize in 2013.
At the age of 28, she was the youngest recipient of the prestigious literary award. It was also the longest book to win, with 832 pages. The chair of the judging panel, Robert Macfarlane said, “It’s a dazzling work. It’s a luminous work. It is vast without being sprawling.”
Set in 1866, THE LUMINARIES follows Walter Moody, a prospector who heads to Hokitika on the opposite coast to Christchurch to make his fortune in the goldfields, but stumbles on a meeting of twelve local men and is drawn into a complex mystery that is covering up a series of unsolved crimes. Each of the twelve men are associated with the twelve signs of the zodiac, astrological principles, the sun and the moon – ‘the luminaries’ in the title. Each of the novel’s twelve parts decreases in length to mimic the waning of the moon. As Eleanor herself said, “It’s a kind of weird sci-fi fantasy thing.”
Eleanor was in London over the weekend speaking at the ‘Series Man Booker 50′ as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Prize. I met her at the Queen Elizabeth Hall Artists’ Entrance on Saturday, where we ‘conversed in kiwi’ as she signed my sketch.
Japanese-born British author and Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro moved to the UK with his family in 1960, when he was five years old. Since then he has become one of the most celebrated contemporary fiction writers in the English-speaking world.
Among his many accolades are four Booker Prize nominations, winning in 1989 with THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, written in first person, recounting the butler Stevens’ professional and personal relationship with a former colleague, the housekeeper Miss Kenton. The 1993 film version starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson was nominated for eight Academy Awards. His 2005 novel NEVER LET ME GO was also shortlisted for the Booker, with TIME magazine citing it as the Best Novel of the Year and was also adapted into a successful film in 2010.
Last year the Swedish Academy awarded him the Nobel Prize in Literature, with the citation, as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” This year he was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Sir Kazuo signed my sketch at the Artists Entrance to the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday as he arrived to take part in the ‘Series Man Booker 50’, celebrating half a century of the prestigious literary prize.
Sri-Lanka-born Canadian author Michael Ondaatje’s 1992 Booker Prize winning novel THE ENGLISH PATIENT was awarded the special, one-off Golden Man Booker award last night, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the prestigious literary accolade. All 52 previous winners were eligible, with the judges shortlisting five – one for each decade – IN A FREE STATE (1971) by V.S.Naipaul, MOON TIGER (1987) by Penelope Lively, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, WOLF HALL (2009) by Hilary Mantel and LINCOLN IN THE BARDO (2017) by George Sanders. The prize has been shared on two occasions, one being in 1992 when THE ENGLISH PATIENT and Barry Unsworth’s SACRED HUNGER were chosen as joint winners. The final Golden Prize was selected by public poll.
THE ENGLISH PATIENT centres around the eponymous ‘English patient’, Count Laszlo de Almasy, burned and disfigured in a plane crash during the North Africa Campaign of WWII, who tells his story in flashbacks, involving a romantic affair, while being attended by Hana, a young Canadian nurse. He is believed to be English, but main his identity is revealed, little by little culminating in the great irony of the novel, he’s not English, but Hungarian… an “international bastard” who has spent most of his adult life wandering the desert. The 1996 film adaption featuring Ralph Fiennes as Almasy won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for the late Anthony Minghella.
Michael signed my sketch at the Royal Festival Hall when he arrived yesterday afternoon as part of the ‘Man Booker 50’ series of lectures, workshops and discussions over the weekend, prior to the announcement of the Golden Man Booker Prize last night.