The Finkler Question Wins the 2010 Man Booker Prize
Howard Jacobson has won the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Finkler Question. Longlisted twice before for the prize, this was the first time London author and columnist Jacobson had been shortlisted. Said to have 'some of the wittiest, most poignant and sharply intelligent comic prose in the English language', The Finkler Question has been described as 'wonderful' and 'richly satisfying' and as a novel of 'full of wit, warmth, intelligence, human feeling and understanding'.
Kalooki Nights, longlisted in 2006, was hailed by critics as "a work of genius, a novel of genius, standing toe to toe with the greats…colossal…and a masterpiece".
Sir Andrew Motion, Chair of the judges, made the announcement on Tuesday evening, which was broadcast by the BBC from the awards dinner at London's Guildhall. Andrew Motion commented "The Finkler Question is a marvellous book: very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle. It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize."
The Finkler Question, on-sale in Canada today, features Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they've never quite lost touch with each other – or with their former teacher, Libor Sevick, a Czech always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results.
Now, both Libor and Sam are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor's grand, central London apartment.
It's a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you have less to mourn? Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends' losses.
And it's that very evening, at exactly 11:30, as Treslove, walking home, hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country, that he is attacked. And after this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change.
The Finkler Question is a scorching story of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and of the wisdom and humanity of maturity. Funny, furious, unflinching, this extraordinary novel shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.
Howard Jacobson's novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (Published by Penguin Canada; longlisted for the Man Booker Prize) and, most recently, the highly acclaimed The Act of Love, published by Penguin Canada. Howard Jacobson lives in London.