US author George Saunders wins 2017 Man Booker Prize

George Saunders poses after winning the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2017 in London. (Reuters)
Updated 18 October 2017
0

US author George Saunders wins 2017 Man Booker Prize

LONDON: US author George Saunders on Tuesday became only the second American writer to win Britain’s renowned Man Booker Prize, which was awarded for his first full-length novel “Lincoln in the Bardo.”
Judges for the world’s most prestigious English-language literary award praised as “utterly original” the book that chronicles the death of Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son Willie using the accounts of hundreds of narrators.
“The form and style of this utterly original novel reveals a witty, intelligent, and deeply moving narrative,” said Lola Young, chair of the judging panel, in announcing the prize at a ceremony in London.
Saunders, 58, described the award as a “great honor, which I hope to live up to with the rest of my work, for the rest of my life.”
In a brief, politically tinged acceptance speech, he made several thinly veiled references to the controversial policies of US President Donald Trump.
“We live in a strange time,” he told the audience. “In the US now we’re hearing a lot about the need to protect culture. Well, this tonight is culture.”
He later told reporters he was in disbelief and numb at the award.
“For an artist, I think validation is really helpful,” he added.
“My opinion of myself improves a little bit.”
The winner of the Man Booker receives £52,500 ($69,300), although the bigger prize is seen as a spike in sales which invariably follow the announcement of the winner.
This year’s shortlist stoked controversy over its big name omissions and eclectic line up, with one British columnist calling it “baffling” and a leading US critic decrying its “Americanization.”
It pitted three nominees from the US against two British writers and a British-Pakistani author.
The award, launched in 1969, was only open to novelists from Commonwealth states until it began permitting those from other English-speaking countries in 2014.
Last year Paul Beatty became the first American to win for his novel, “The Sellout.”
Saunders was the British bookmakers’ favorite ahead of the 2017 announcement on Tuesday.
He wrote “Lincoln in the Bardo” over a four-year period, after first conceptualising it 20 years ago, the author told a press conference following the ceremony.


Shh...! South Korea hushes for crucial university entrance exam

Updated 15 November 2018
0

Shh...! South Korea hushes for crucial university entrance exam

  • This year nearly 595,000 students are sitting the grueling exam, which stretches over nine hours
  • The results of the daunting exam will be released on December 5

SEOUL: South Korea dialed down the volume on Thursday as hundreds of thousands of students sat a crucial national university entrance exam, with authorities taking extraordinary measures to minimize possible distractions.
The college entrance test is the culmination of South Korea’s highly demanding school system, and in an ultra-competitive society it plays a large part in defining students’ adult lives, holding the key to top universities, elevated social status, good jobs, and even marriage prospects.
This year nearly 595,000 students were sitting the grueling exam, which stretches over nine hours, according to the education ministry.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who was in Singapore for regional summits, posted a good luck message to the students on his Facebook page.
The intense effort they had put in over years of study was coming to fruition, he said. “Believe in it and you will be able to show your full competence.”
Extraordinary measures are taken nationwide to remove anything that could disturb the test-takers.
Public offices, major businesses and the stock market opened an hour later than usual to help ease traffic and ensure students arrived on time for the exam, which began nationwide at 8:40am.
Any students stuck in traffic could get police cars and motorbikes to rush them to the exam centers.
All takeoffs and landings at South Korean airports are suspended for 25 minutes to coincide with an English listening test, and all airborne planes must maintain an altitude higher than 3,000 meters (10,000 feet).
The Transport Ministry said 134 flights had to be rescheduled because of the exam.
Electronics are strictly forbidden and students cannot leave school premises until the test ends to reduce the chances of cheating.
But they will be allowed to wear masks during the exam this year, the education ministry said, with fine dust pollution levels persisting at “bad” on the peninsula.
The results of the daunting exam will be released on December 5.