Michael Ondaatje's English Patient wins Booker Prize's 50th anniversary award

Eleanor Catton

Author Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient was voted as the best-ever victor of the Man Booker Prize at an event Sunday celebrating 50 years of the prestigious literary award.

The novel - which was adapted into an Oscar-winning 1996 movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche - was judged to be the best victor of the 52 books to have won the prestigious award.

All 51 previous winners were considered by a panel of judges, who whittled them down to one from each decade.

"Not for a second do I believe this is the best book on the list - or any other list that could have been put together of Booker novels", Ondaatje said at the awards ceremony at London's Southbank.

The Sri Lanka-born writer was announced as the victor at the closing event of the Man Booker 50 Festival at the Royal Festival Hall, which saw Shamsie discuss why she had chosen The English Patient and an extract performed by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.

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The novel, a work of historical fiction that takes place in Italy during the Second World War, originally won the prestigious English-language literary prize in 1992 as well as the Governor General's Literary Award.

Novelist Kamila Shamsie, the jurist who selected the English Patient as a Golden Booker finalist, called the novel "transformative".

Judge Kamila Shamsie said the story was truly "transformative" as she explained why she had selected it as the victor of the 90s. "Ms. Shamsie said in a statement, "'The English Patient' is that rare novel which gets under your skin and insists you return to it time and again, always yielding a new surprise or delight".

Ondaatje became the first Canadian to win the Booker Prize sharing the 1992 prize with British author Barry Unsworth and his historical novel "Sacred Hunger".

Baroness Helena Kennedy, Chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, added: "It is a compelling work of fiction - both poetic and philosophical - and is a worthy victor of the Golden Man Booker".

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