One Inch Wonders: Booker Prize Winners

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September 1, 2011 by markstani

This year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist is announced next week. If the longlist is anything to go by, it should be one of the best yet. It’s been criticised a little for its irreverence, but as these opening paragraphs from the past decade of winners proves, that’s precisely what makes the Booker what it is. Vernon God Little and White Tiger are the ones that did it for me.

2001: True History of the Kelly Gang (Peter Carey, Vintage)

By dawn at least half the members of the Kelly gang were badly wounded and it was then the creature appeared from behind police lines. It was nothing human, that much was evident. It had no head but a very long thick neck and an immense chest and it walked with a slow ungainly gait directly into a hail of bullets.

2002: Life of Pi (Yann Martel, Random House)


This book was born as I was hungry. Let me explain. In the spring of 1996, my second book, a novel, came out in Canada. It didn’t fare well. Reviewers were puzzled, or damned it with faint praise. Then readers ignored it.

2003: Vernon God Little (DBC Pierre, Faber)

It’s hot as hell in Martirio, but the papers on the porch are icy with the news. Don’t even try to guess who stood all Tuesday night in the road. Clue: snotty ole Mrs Lechuga. Hard to tell if she quivered, or if moths and porchlight through the willows ruffled her skin like funeral satin in a gale.

2004: The Line of Beauty (Alan Hollinghurst, Bloomsbury)

“What do you know about this business?” the King said to Alice.

“Nothing,” said Alice.

“Nothing whatever?” persisted the King.

“Nothing whatever,” said Alice.

2005: The Sea (John Banville, Picador)

They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide. All morning under a milky sky the waters in the bay had swelled and swelled, rising to unheard-of heights, the small waves creepign over parched sand that for years had known no wetting save for rain and lapping the very bases of the dunes.

2006: The Inheritance of Loss (Kiran Desai, Grove Press)

In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas, lives an embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace from a world he has found too messy for justice, when his orphaned grand-daughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep.

2007: The Gathering (Anne Enright, Jonathan Cape)

I would like to write down what happened in my grandmother’s house the summer I was eight or nine, but I am not sure if it really did happen. I need to bear witnes to an uncertain event. I feel it roaring inside me – this thing that may not have taken place.

2008: The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga, Atlantic)

For the Desk of:

His Excellency Wen Jiabao

The Premier’s Office


Capital of the Freedom-loving Nation of China

From the Desk of:“The White Tiger”

A Thinking Man

And an Entrepreneur

Living in the world’s center of Technology and Outsourcing

Electronics City Phase 1 (just off Hosur Main Road)

Bangalore, India

2009: Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel, Fourth Estate)

“So now get up.”

Felled, dazed, silent, he has fallen; knocked full length on the cobbles of the yard. His head turns sideways; his eyes are turned toward the gate, as if someone might arrive to help him out. One blow, properly placed, could kill him now.

2010: The Finkler Question (Howard Jacobsen, Bloomsbury)

He should have seen it coming.

His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one.

He was a man who saw things coming. Not shadowy premonitions before and after sleep, but real and present dangers in the daylit world.


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