1985 was of course the year that New Zealand author Keri Hulme won the Booker Prize with her novel The Bone People. She remains the only New Zealander to have won this prestigious award, now called The Man Booker Prize, although Lloyd Jones must have come very close last year with his widely acclaimed novel Mister Pip.
Keri Hulme’s achievement was a hugely significant one and gave a great boost to fiction publishing in New Zealand and its export potential. When you look at the other shortlisted titles that The Bone People was up against in 1985 you realise just what a great victory this was.
Illywhacker by Peter Carey, (many regard this as his best work), J.L.Carr’s The Battle of Pollocks Crossing, The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing, Last Letters from Hav by Jan Morris, and Iris Murdoch’s The Good Apprentice. What an impressive bunch of titles, and Keri Hulme the kiwi rank outsider beat them all.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Booker Prize and I will be featuring regular snippets from the Prize’s history in the build up to this year’s awards dinner.