Cracking the Booker Prize Code

Naomi Adam, a British post-graduate researcher in English Literature, cracked a statistical model to pick gets the cigar --- this involves both the average Booker bagger’s and the book’s profile.

Published: 23rd October 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2022 09:19 PM   |  A+A-

Shehan Karunatilaka

Author Shehan Karunatilaka holds the Booker Prize during a photo call after the announcement of his victory, at the Roundhouse, in London, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022.(Photo | AP)

Express News Service

The world runs on formulas, in physics, chemistry and business. This applies to literary prizes too. On Monday, October 17, the Booker Prize for 2022 went to Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.

Naomi Adam, a British post-graduate researcher in English Literature, had cracked the formula the previous week. She wrote in The Conversation: “Personally, my money would be on Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.” Her reasons? “Historical fiction? Check. Past-tense deep-dive into recent post-colonial trauma? Check. Narrator as creative (a photographer), outcast, ghost? Check, check, check. It even features the lucky number seven, the only number ever included in the title of a Booker-winning work.”

The Booker Prize lit barcode spits out “the finest in fiction” when the winner’s card is swiped.

Naomi even cracked a statistical model to pick who gets the cigar. This involved both the average Booker bagger’s and the book’s profile.

Shortlist X-Ray: Established white male with six books on the shelf and has been shortlisted before.

Sidelines/hobbies: Poetry and screenwriting.

Astrological sign: Gemini. (Going by previous wins, writers born under this sign have twice a good chance to walk away with the Booker booty.)

Novel in the race: Averages about 408 pages, is a hardback and weighs a tad more than half a kilo.

Fave topic: Historical fiction.

Themes: time, memory, love and loss, and family.

Central character: Introspective outsider, who probably works in the creative field.

Storyline: Written in past tense from either a first-or third-person perspective.

“The novel incorporates multiple viewpoints, many of them unexpected: think the recently deceased, or a herd of grazing cattle. It is sparse on punctuation, and heavy on political satire,” she identifies the Booker trope.

Topics: Colonialism and consequences.

Comment: The bookies favoured Alan Garner’s Treacle Walker at 3/1. NoViolet Bulawayo, as the only previously shortlisted writer in the 2022 list, ticked only one of the boxes. Percival Everett’s The Trees was a surprise inclusion since no crime novel (laced with dark humour) ever made it to Guildhall—so there you are. Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These, set during the Christmas of 1985, was too thin to be a heavy hitter—just 116 pages, weighing less than a quarter kilo, no kidding.

Maali, the protagonist of Karunatilaka’s novel quips that “the odds of winning the lottery are one in eight million”. And Naomi’s ticket was on the writer with the hair bun.  


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