Anna Burns’ third novel ‘Milkman’ has won the 2018 Man Booker Prize.
The Man Booker Prize, celebrating its 50th anniversary, is worth around $66,000 and Burns is the first writer from Northern Ireland to have be awarded.
In an interview posted by the Man Booker Prize foundation, Burns said that ‘Milkman’ was inspired by her own experience. “I grew up in a place that was rife with violence, distrust and paranoia, and peopled by individuals trying to navigate and survive in that world as best as they could.”
Set in an un-named city but with an astonishing, breath-shorteningly palpable sense of time and place ‘Milkman’ is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. The story of inaction with enormous consequences and decisions that are never made, but for which people are judged and punished. Middle sister is our protagonist. She is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her nearly-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with milkman (which she herself for the life of her cannot work out how it came about). But when first brother-in-law, who of course had sniffed it out, told his wife, her first sister, to tell her mother to come and have a talk with her, middle sister becomes 'interesting'. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous. Milkman is a searingly honest novel told in prose that is as precise and unsentimental as it is devastating and brutal. A novel that is at once unlocated and profoundly tethered to place is surely a novel for our times.
Chair of judges Kwame Anthony Appiah comments:
“The language of Anna Burns’ Milkman is simply marvellous; beginning with the distinctive and consistently realised voice of the funny, resilient, astute, plain-spoken, first-person protagonist. From the opening page her words pull us into the daily violence of her world — threats of murder, people killed by state hit squads — while responding to the everyday realities of her life as a young woman, negotiating a way between the demands of family, friends and lovers in an unsettled time. The novel delineates brilliantly the power of gossip and social pressure in a tight-knit community, and shows how both rumour and political loyalties can be put in the service of a relentless campaign of individual sexual harassment….”
Read more about the Man Booker Prize here: