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Vikas Swarup scoops 2006 Boeke Prize PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 18:00
Diplomat and author, Vikas Swarup, was tonight named as the winner of Exclusive Books' 2006 Boeke Prize for his 'unputdownable' novel, Q&A, published by Random House. The book was also the favourite choice of thousands of Fanatics members who voted for it in an in-store competition.

It is the ninth debut novel to scoop the Boeke Prize, following last year's The Time Traveler's Wife and the previous year's joint award to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and The Kite Runner. The prize, for the best page-turner and most compelling fiction of the year, was started 12 years ago as a tongue-in-cheek take on the more staid Booker Prize.
Described as a beguiling blend of high comedy and touching melancholy, Q&A is the poignant story of how a penniless waiter from Mumbai became the biggest quiz-show winner in history. Vikas Swarup's first novel has been translated into twenty-five languages and is due to be made into both a film and stage musical.

Vikas Swarup is a diplomat who recently came to South Africa as the Deputy High Commissioner for India. Born in Allahabad, India, to an illustrious family that includes several prominent lawyers, he attended Allahabad University, where he made his mark as a champion debater. After graduating, he joined the Indian Foreign Service and has served in Turkey, the United States, Ethiopia and Great Britain.

While living in London in 2003, he thought he would try writing fiction. A die-hard thriller fan, he says his book marries the pace of a thriller with social commentary. He is writing a second novel.

Mr Swarup collected a framed picture of his book jacket at the gala Boeke Awards ceremony held at a Sandton Exclusive Books bookstore on Wednesday night. He admitted to being delighted though somewhat bemused by the runaway success of Q&A, which he wrote in under two months.

The winner was chosen from a shortlist of eight novels based on the votes of 41 book critics representing the media across South Africa. The books that made the shortlist were selected from a long list of fiction nominated by booksellers with an intuitive understanding of what was creating word of mouth buzz in the industry and among fiction lovers.

"The word on the street was that these were fictional sleeper hits," said Jill van Zyl, a director of Exclusive Books. "Our judges were called on to decide which of the eight shortlisted titles they considered to be impossible to put down, a compelling story, yet highly accessible to all book lovers."

The panel of judges chose We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (distributed by Quartet) as their runner up. The sometimes-shocking story is written as a series of letters from a mother to her husband about their son who is in prison for a Columbine-High-School-style massacre. It has been described as a book that forces the reader to confront assumptions about love and parenting, about how and why we apportion blame, about crime and punishment, forgiveness and redemption.

In a hotly contested contest, Fanatics' readers voted Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer as their second most favourite title. It is a wildly inventive story about a nine-year-old boy's odyssey through the boroughs of New York as he attempts to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in a closet after the death of his father in the 9/11 attacks.

The other shortlisted books were three more debut novels: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (Penguin); A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka (Penguin); Disobedience by Naomi Alderman (Penguin); and Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow (Pan Macmillan) and Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (Jonathan Ball Publishers).