The judges rebelled against the literary prize’s rules and awarded it to “The Testaments” and “Girl, Woman, Other.”
LONDON — Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have both won this year’s Booker Prize, it was announced at a ceremony on Monday, after the judges for the literary award rebelled against its rules.
“We were told quite firmly that the rules state you can only have one winner,” Peter Florence, the chairman of the Booker judges, said at a news conference. But the “consensus was to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners.”
Evaristo, who won for her novel “Girl, Woman, Other,” is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. “I hope that honor doesn’t last too long,” she said in her acceptance speech. Atwood, who won in 2000 for “The Blind Assassin,” was considered a front-runner this year for “The Testaments,” the sequel to her 1985 dystopian classic, “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
It is not the first time the award has been shared. In 1992, Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient” shared it with Barry Unsworth’s “Sacred Hunger,” but the prize’s organizers then changed the rules to only allow one winner to avoid undermining either book.
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The other novels on the shortlist included Lucy Ellmann’s “Ducks, Newburyport,” a 1,000 page novel about a middle-aged woman in Ohio reflecting on her life while baking, which unfolds almost entirely in a single sentence; Chigozie Obioma’s “An Orchestra of Minorities,” about a Nigerian poultry farmer called Chinonso who stops a woman from jumping to her death and falls in love with her; Salman Rushdie’s “Quichotte,” a retelling of “Don Quixote” that features a traveling salesman on a quest to win over a beautiful television host; and Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World,” a story about a sex worker in Istanbul who is murdered and left in the garbage on the outskirts of the city.
Compared to previous years, in which Americans were heavily represented, writers from the United States were scarce this year. The sole American on the shortlist is Ellmann, a native of Illinois who now lives in Scotland.
Evaristo and Atwood will split the prize money of 50,000 pounds, around $63,000, although the Booker, first awarded in 1969, normally delivers a sales boost. Anna Burns’s “Milkman,” an experimental novel about a woman during Northern Ireland’s civil conflict, has sold over 500,000 copies since winning the prize last year.
The Booker is one of the literary world’s most prestigious prizes. Past winners include Rushdie, who was shortlisted for this year’s prize, as well as such literary heavyweights as Hilary Mantel and J.M. Coetzee. Atwood now joins Mantel, Coetzee and Peter Carey in the small club of authors to have won twice.