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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Joyful Martel wins Booker
Yann Martel after the announcement
Martel leapt up gleefully after the announcement
Yann Martel's surreal fable Life of Pi has won the prestigious Booker Prize.

Martel was the bookmakers' favourite for his tale of a 16-year-old boy shipwrecked and stuck in a lifeboat with a tiger called Richard Parker.

The winner was announced at a ceremony at the British Museum in London on Tuesday night, screened on BBC Two and BBC Four.

Martel accepts his prize
Martel thanked his family in French
Martel thanked his family in French and praised readers in English for "having met his imagination halfway".

Modestly, he insisted: "Of the six fine books on the shortlist, mine was the luckiest."

The Canadian author denied his win and the presence of two other writers from the Commonwealth country represented a literary movement.

Speaking to the BBC's Kirsty Wark, he said: "It's happenstance that there's three Canadian writers."

And he played down suggestions that too many authors were writing novels with prizes like the Booker in mind.

"You don't write with prizes in mind. It really is a lottery."

Betting on the prize was suspended well ahead of Tuesday night's event after a "dummy" web page was put online, which revealed the winner as Martel.

Organisers of the prize said this had been an internal mistake and denied the winner was already known, explaining the judges would not make their final decision until the day of the ceremony.

And the judges maintained their final decision was only made at 1830 BST on Tuesday night.

The other nominees were:

  • Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

  • Unless by Carol Shields

  • The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor

  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

  • Dirt Music by Tim Winton

The five judges, chaired by Professor Lisa Jardine, had to choose the winner of the 50,000 prize, having whittled the shortlist down from 130 at the start of the judging process.

Irish author William Trevor had been second favourite to win the title, but would have been viewed as a "safe option" by some.

His tragic story of a family forced into exile from 1920s Cork won favour with many critics and is selling well.

Sarah Waters, currently enjoying fame following the television adaptation of her lesbian costume drama Tipping the Velvet, had been tipped as the popular choice.

Enduring appeal

The judging panel comprised comedian and author David Baddiel, novelist Russell Celyn Jones, analytical psychologist Sally Vickers and Erica Wagner, literary editor of The Times.

Baddiel initially favoured the Waters novel but was eventually won over.

The 2001 Booker Prize was won by Australian author Peter Carey for his novel True History of the Kelly Gang.

Winning books always see a sharp rise in sales, and Martel's has been no exception.

His publisher, Canongate, said almost all of a new print run of 30,000 books had been sold to bookshops by 1500 BST on Wednesday.

Waterstones compiled a top 10 list of sales of previous winners, with Margaret Atwood's 2000 winner The Blind Assassin coming out top, followed by Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang.

Arundhati Roy's God Of Small Things, a winner in 1997, is in third place, while at number four is Iris Murdoch's winning novel from 24 years ago, The Sea, The Sea.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Yann Martel, Booker Prize winner
"I'd like to thank readers for having met my imagination halfway"
Yann Martel
Talks to the BBC's Kirsty Walk
Coverage of the 2002 Booker Prize from BBC News Online and BBCi Arts


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30 Sep 02 | Entertainment
17 Oct 02 | Entertainment
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