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Tuesday, 26 October, 1999, 06:00 GMT 07:00 UK
Booker double for Coetzee
JM Coetzee: "The ultimate prize"
Novelist J M Coetzee has won the Booker Prize for Fiction, becoming the first writer to win the UK's top literary award twice.

The accolade for his novel Disgrace was announced at a dinner at London's Guildhall attended by leading figures from the publishing world.

Mr Coetzee, who is South African and works as Professor of General Literature at the University of Cape Town, also scooped the prize in 1983 with The Life & Times of Michael K.

He beat British author Michael Frayn, who was favourite to take the 31st annual prize.

Mr Coetzee, who was unable to attend the ceremony, described the prize as the "ultimate prize to win in the English-speaking world".

His editor, Geoff Mulligan, accepted the prize on his behalf, and told guests: "We are thrilled that his great and humane novel has won the Booker Prize."

Mr Mulligan read from a letter prepared by the author in the event of a win.

"If I do win it's only because the stars this October 25th are in a lucky conjunction for me," it said.

Mr Coetzee said he admired all the shortlisted authors who he described as "equally worthy winners".

As well as the 20,000 prize cheque, Mr Coetzee was presented with a further 1,000 for making it onto the six-strong shortlist. But the main boost will appear in book sales, which can rise by four or five times.

Last year's winner Ian McEwan saw an extra 300,000 sales of his novel Amsterdam.

Mr Coetzee's book focuses on a 52-year-old professor in Cape Town who seeks refuge at his daughter's farm following an impulsive affair with a student.

But a savage attack brings the faults in their relationship into sharp relief, and the novel concentrates on divisions in personal relationships.

JM Coetzee: "The ultimate prize"
The six-strong Booker shortlist caused bewilderment when it was announced last month after low-key writers were chosen from 129 entrants, instead of the expected heavyweights such as Salman Rushdie or Vikram Seth.

Chairman of the judging panel Gerald Kaufman MP would not discuss the list after it was unveiled, but said 10 novels were found to be of "major stature".

Mr Kaufman said: "This shortlist is one of the strongest for years - and choosing one of the six to win the prize will be a really challenging task."

The Booker is open to British or Commonwealth authors and aims to reward the best novel of the year.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
The BBC's David Sillito: "He was number two in the bookies short list"
Audio
The BBC's David Sillito: "He was number two in the bookies short list"
Audio
An extract from "Disgrace" by JM Coetzee
Audio
An extract from "Disgrace" by JM Coetzee
Audio
Booker Prize winner, JM Coetzee: "I doubt very much that this is going to have an impact on my life"
Audio
Booker Prize winner, JM Coetzee: "I doubt very much that this is going to have an impact on my life"
See also:

28 Oct 98 | Entertainment
Booker win for Ian McEwan
21 Sep 99 | Entertainment
Novelists line up for Booker Prize
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