Jamaican novelist Marlon James wins Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Marlon James Imagines an Intimate Bob Marley
Marlon James Imagines an Intimate Bob Marley

Last year, just after Jamaican author Marlon James‘ new book “A Brief History of Seven Killings” came out, I remember having a conversation with Marina Salandy-Brown, the founder of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, one of the Caribbean region’s most lauded literary festivals. She was practically giddy over the brilliance of his writing and made this stunning prediction: “I think he has a real shot at winning The Man Booker Prize.”

On October 13, James was indeed named the winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

The Man Booker Prize is one of the most prestigious literary awards. Quite apart from the £50,000 prize money that goes along with it, Man Booker acknowledges each year the best English-language novel — in the opinion of its judges — that is published in the United Kingdom.

“A Brief History of Seven Killings” uses the assassination attempt on Bob Marley, referred to as “the singer” throughout the novel, as an anchor point from which to explore issues of race and class in Jamaica, as well as the entangled political relationship between the United States and the Caribbean which helped to create an island embroiled in gang warfare and gun violence. The book is intricately crafted, with more than 75 characters, and intense; the strength of the narrative caused the Man Booker judges to come to a unanimous decision in less than two hours.