Douglas Stuart’s ‘Shuggie Bain’ wins 2020 Booker Prize, Indian-origin Avni Doshi misses out

PTI London | Updated on November 20, 2020

New York-based Scottish writer Douglas Stuart has won the prestigious €50,000-Booker Prize for his autobiographical debut novel Shuggie Bain, a coming of age tale of love and alcoholism set in 1980s Glasgow, beating Indian-origin author Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar.

Stuart, 44, dedicated the book to his mother, who died of alcoholism when he was 16.

“I cannot believe this. Shuggie is a work of fiction but writing the book was extremely healing for me; hugely cathartic,” Stuart said.

“I always wanted to be a writer so this is fulfilling a dream. This has changed my entire life,” he said in his acceptance speech.

Dubai-based Indian-origin writer Doshi was in the running for this year’s prize alongside Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga for the third novel in her trilogy This Mournable Body and US authors Diane Cook (The New Wilderness), Maaza Mengiste (The Shadow King) and Brandon Taylor (Real Life).

The 2020 Booker Prize judging panel was chaired by Margaret Busby, editor, literary critic and former publisher, and consists of author Lee Child; author and critic Sameer Rahim; writer and broadcaster Lemn Sissay; and classicist and translator Emily Wilson.

Shuggie Bain is destined to be a classic — a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people and its values. The heart-wrenching story tells of the unconditional love between Agnes Bain — set on a descent into alcoholism by the tough circumstances life has dealt her — and her youngest son,” Busby said.

Shuggie Bain can make you cry and make you laugh — a daring, frightening and life-changing novel,” she added.

The book was rejected by 30 editors before it was picked up by publishers Grove Atlantic in the US and Picador in the UK.

ALSO READ: I’ve never felt pride and shame mingle so closely, says writer Avni Doshi

Virtual ceremony

The Booker Prize ceremony this year was very different due to the coronavirus lockdown. The so-called innovative and globally accessible 2020 winner ceremony was broadcast from London’s Roundhouse.

All six shortlisted authors joined the ceremony via a special screen in the Roundhouse and the event included both virtual and in-person special guests.

Former US President Barack Obama spoke about what reading Booker Prize novels has meant to him. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, shared her thoughts on the importance of reading during the pandemic, also via videolink.

“I have always turned to writing to try and make sense of our world,”said Obama, whose recent memoir A Promised Land has been making waves globally.

Award-winners such as Kazuo Ishiguro talked about the experience of having won both the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Authors Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo reflected on what they have been up to since they became the first-ever joint Booker Prize winners last year for The Testaments and Girl, Woman, Other, respectively.

ALSO READ: Barack Obama memoir off to record-setting start in sales

Published on November 20, 2020

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