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Lost Man Booker Prize goes to J.G. Farrell

May 20, 2010 |  7:32 am

Troublesjgfarrell Wednesday, it was announced that the Lost Man Booker Prize would go to "Troubles" by J.G. Farrell. Farrell, who died in 1979, was brought up in England and Ireland and won the Booker Prize in 1973 for his novel "The Siege of Krishnapur."

The Lost Man Booker was designed to be awarded just this once, to a book published during a period in 1970 that wound up being ineligible for the Booker because of a rules change.

Other books on the shortlist for the Lost Man Booker were "The Birds on the Trees" by Nina Bawden, "The Bay of Noon" by Shirley Hazzard, "Fire From Heaven" by Mary Renault, "The Driver's Seat" by Muriel Spark and "The Vivisector" by Patrick White.

Farrell's "Troubles," which has been reprinted in America by New York Review of Books Classics, is a humorous history set in a crumbling grand hotel in Ireland in 1919.

Without that reprinting, it might have been lost in more significant ways. Other shortlisted books -- apart from "The Vivisector," reprinted by Penguin Classics last year with a truly terrifying cover -- will be harder to find. Many are only available used or by special order.

Final selection of the Lost Man Booker was made by an online public vote, which was 38% -- an overwhelming majority -- for "Troubles." Though that's notable, what's more interesting is how that shortlist was selected: It was vetted by three literary judges, each of whom was born around 1970, when the eligible books were published. Although they were set apart from these books by a generation, they still, presumably, found something to like.

For those of us who spend more than enough time in used-books stores, this might serve as a reminder: Even if you don't know a thing about a book or know the name on the binding, it might well be a work of great literary merit. Many were lost to the Booker prizes that might make very worthy reads.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Matt Dunham / Associated Press

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