Man Booker comment: Dr David Brauner says winning book reflects fears over US dominance and sponsors' anxiety on being associated with 'difficult' work
Release Date 15 October 2014
Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of Reading, Dr David Brauner, reflects on the result of the Man Booker Prize
"The Narrow Road to the Deep North was a safe, uncontroversial choice for the prize. It is well-written, deals with historically weighty material and is very readable. Moreover, it assuages the fears of those who predicted that Commonwealth writers wouldn't get a look-in once the prize opened its doors to the Americans.
"There is a whiff of compromise about the choice - it wouldn't be the first time that the prize went to the novel that all the members of the panel liked and could agree on, while they found themselves polarised over the merits of other contenders.
"The two best and boldest novels on the list - Howard Jacobson's J and Ali Smith's How to Be Both - are more challenging, formally and intellectually, than Flanagan's book. However there's long been an anxiety on the part of the sponsors of the prize (initiated by the award to John Berger's G in 1972 and compounded by Keri Hulme's win for The Bone People in 1984) about being associated with 'difficult' or 'pretentious' work.
"This anxiety tends to transmit itself to the panel and to have an impact - consciously or unconsciously - on their deliberations."