Man Booker Prize 2014 winner says he was broke
Australian author Richard Flanagan, who last week won 2014 Man Booker
Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North, reveals he was so hard up
he considered working in mines
Richard Flanagan, the 2014 Man Booker Prize winner, was so hard up
just a year ago that he considered working down a mine.
The Australian author won the award for his sixth novel, The Narrow
Road to the Deep North, last week. In his acceptance speech, he thanked
the judges for choosing him and thanked the sponsors "for the cheque".
The prize money is £50,000. Despite his run of acclaimed novels and a
screen writing credit on the Nicole Kidman epic Australia, Flanagan said
the writer's life had left him with no money to support his wife and
Booker winners often give a flippant answer when asked what they plan
to do with the money - Hilary Mantel joked that she would spend hers on
"sex, drugs and rock'n'roll" - but Flanagan, 53, was serious. "Do what
everyone else does with money: live," he said. "I'm not a wealthy man.
In essence, this means I can continue to write.
"A year-and-a-half ago when I finished this book, I was contemplating
going to get what work I could in the mines in far northern Australia
because things had come to such a pass with my writing. I had spent so
long on this book.
"There's nothing unusual about that for writers. Writing is a very
hard life for so many writers."
Flanagan worked on the book for 12 years. It was inspired by his
father's harrowing experience as a prisoner of war on the Burma-Thailand
"Death Railway" during the Second World War. He wrote five other books
on the subject during that time, only to delete them from his hard drive
and burn the manuscripts.
"A good writer needs a good rubbish bin and I just got a box of
matches and struck the match and put it to the paper and that's it," he
said. "They were rubbish, they were bad and they didn't work. I don't
think I'm much of a writer but I'm a better re-writer." Speaking
backstage at London's Guildhall after receiving his award, Flanagan said
he felt hopeful about the future of the novel. "Much has been made about
the death of the novel and the end of literature as it's seen to be
assailed by technology, by the web, by the many and varied new forms of
entertainment and culture. I don't share that pessimism because I think
it is one of the great inventions of the human spirit.
"So it strikes me not as a dying medium but as an ever more
remarkable one." When his name was announced, Flanagan bounded on to the
stage at the Guildhall and hugged the Duchess of Cornwall, who was there
to present the prize. If it was a breach of protocol, the Duchess did
not appear to mind.
Asked later about his spontaneous gesture, Flanagan said: "Well, she
seemed a sweet woman and she was very nice, and I didn't think to
respond in any other way."
In his acceptance speech, he said: "I did not come out of a literary
tradition. I come from a mining town in the rainforest on an island at
the end of the world.
"My grandparents were illiterate and I never expected to stand before
you in this great hall in London as a writer being so honoured.
"In Australia, the Man Booker Prize is sometimes seen as something of
a chicken raffle. I just didn't expect to end up with the chicken."
Last month, Flanagan was briefly the bookmakers' favourite after a
mystery man visited 13 betting shops in and around Darlington, County
Durham, and placed the maximum bet on Flanagan to win.
Ladbrokes said he had won several thousand pounds. A spokesman said:
"We never had Darlington down as a literary betting hotspot."
- The Telegraph