India-born British author Neel Mukherjee lost out on the 2014 Booker Prize to Australian novelist Richard Flanagan, who won the prestigious literary prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North that tells the story of prisoners of war on the Burma railway.
The novel, Tasmania-born Flanagan’s sixth, is set during the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War II. The author’s father, who died aged 98 the day the novel was finished, was a survivor of the Railway, which was constructed by prisoners-of-war and slave labourers in 1943.
Named after a famous Japanese book by the haiku poet Basho, the winning title was described by the 2014 judges as ‘a harrowing account of the cost of war to all who are caught up in it’.
Questioning the meaning of heroism, the book explores what motivates acts of extreme cruelty and shows that perpetrators may be as much victims as those they abuse.
Flanagan was presented with the coveted award by Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall, at a glittering ceremony in London’s Guildhall.
Kolkata-born Mukherjee had earlier emerged as the odds-on favourite to win the Booker Prize this year.
His second book, The Lives Of Others, a sweeping account of life in 1960s Kolkata (then called Calcutta), was 5/2 favourite to win with bookmakers William Hill, making him the frontrunner for the coveted 50,000 pound prize.
London-based Mukherjee had been selected for his second novel published in May this year. The book is based in his birth place of Kolkata and centres around a dysfunctional Ghosh family in the 1960s and the secrets and rivalries within the family against a backdrop of political activism.
Mukerjee, who studied at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, reviews fiction for the ‘Times’ and the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ and his first novel, A Life Apart was a joint winner of the Vodafone-Crossword Award in India.