Mantel Eyes Off Prize

Mantel winning the Man Booker

Mantel winning the Man Booker

Last year’s winner of the Man Booker has written a great piece on her difficult relationship with prizes for Intelligent Life.

Though Mantel’s Wolf Hall won the prize and has gone on to be a bestseller, the author remembers several less successful nominations. At one prize ceremony she recalls Anthony Burgess beating her for a prize. He “looked down at me from his great height, a cheque between thumb and finger, and said, ‘I expect you need this more than me,’ and there again I experienced a wicked but ungratified impulse, to snatch the cheque away and stuff it into my bra.”

Not all losing experiences are hard. One of Mantel’s most comforting losses came with the welcome distraction of a young friend who had a different response to not winning. “‘Never mind,’ he said, just like everyone else. And then, quite unlike everyone else: ‘If you like, you can come up and play with my guinea pig.’”

But after years of doing critically well (read: borderline poverty), Mantel felt the sales bump of winning the prize. She recalls, “Moments after I took my cheque from the hands of the Man Booker judges, an ally approached me, stabbing at an electronic device in her hand: ‘I’ve just checked Amazon—you’re number one—you’re outselling Dan Brown.’”

Despite the sales, Mantel’s parting advice to nervous nominees is that the moment - be it win or lose - passes quickly. “You win by a squeak or you lose. Your life changes or it doesn’t. There is really no cause for self-congratulation: no time, either. You do not know till the moment you know; or at least, no wash of rumour reached me, lapping towards the stage from the back of the hall.”

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