Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North beat out To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, J by Howard Jacobson, The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, and How to be Both by Ali Smith to win the 2014 Man Booker Prize, worth £50,000. According to BBC.com, the chair of judges AC Grayling said he and his fellow jurors debated for three hours before reaching a majority decision. “The two great themes from the origin of literature are love and war: this is a magnificent novel of love and war,” Grayling said.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Flanagan’s sixth novel, is inspired by Flanagan’s father. A Japanese prisoner of war in the 1940s, the elder Flanagan was forced to help build the Death Railway between Bangkok, Thailand and Rangoon, Burma in 1943 to support Japanese forces. Over 100,000 people died in construction of the railway.
“He trusted me, he never asked me what the story was,” Flanagan told the BBC. The book took him 12 years to finish. “But I did talk to him often about very small things. What the mud was like, what the smell of a rotting tropical ulcer that had eaten through to the shin bone exactly was. What a tiny ball of sour rice would taste like when you’re starving, what starvation felt like in your belly and your brain.”
The day he finished the novel, Flanagan’s father, 98, died.
This was the first year the Man Booker Prize was open to English Language writers outside the Commonwealth. The Tasmania-born author remarked “In Australia the Man Booker is sometimes seen as something of a chicken raffle. I just didn’t expect to end up the chicken.”