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The Man Booker Prize Goes To... Howard Jacobson, For 'The Finkler Question'

A file picture, taken on Oct. 10, shows British writer Howard Jacobson, winner of the Man Booker Prize.
A file picture, taken on Oct. 10, shows British writer Howard Jacobson, winner of the Man Booker Prize.

This year's winner of the Man Booker Prize is Howard Jacobson, the author of The Finkler Question, whatThe New York Timesdescribes as "a witty novel about a friendship between a radio producer and a philosopher and the questions of religion it brings."

A radio producer?! How did I miss this title?

The award administrator called it "a novel about love, loss and male friendship, and explores what it means to be Jewish today."

The Guardiansaid the book "has become the first unashamedly comic novel to win the Man Booker prize in its 42-year history."

Jacobson wasn't the favorite to win the award. C, by Tom McCarthy, was. The other finalists were In a Strange Room, by Damon Galgut; The Long Song, by Andrea Levy; Room, by Emma Donoghue; and Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey.

According toLos Angeles Timesblogger Carolyn Kellogg, "last year, the Man Booker carried weight across the Atlantic."

The prize's winner, "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel, might not seem like the kind of book that would find fans outside of the U.K. -- it's a novelized telling of the story of Thomas Cromwell, a minister who served under King Henry VIII in the early 1500s -- but it went on to both critical and commercial success in America. After getting the Man Booker prize, "Wolf Hall" went on to win the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and become a NY Times bestseller.

David Sax profiled the book for NPR's "You Must Read This" series.

"Jacobson isn't the first writer to delve into the question of Jewish identity, and he surely won't be the last," he said. "But he is definitely one of the most fearless."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.
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