A fiction book titled “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Jamaican author Marlon James has won the Man Booker fiction prize, and it tells the story of the attempted murder of reggae star Bob Marley in the 1970s.
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The 686-page book tells of a gang of ghetto kids who abuse hard drugs and arm themselves with automatic weapons with the intention of killing Bob Marley before he performed at a peace concert in Kingston, capital city of Jamaica, in 1976.
"Jamaica has a really really rich literary tradition, it is kind of surreal being the first and I hope I'm not the last and I don't think I will be," 44-year-old Marlon James said. "There is a real universe of sort of spunky creativity that's happening. I hope it brings more attention to what's coming out of Jamaica and the Caribbean."
There is a heavy use of Jamaican patois and Harlem slangs in the novel, and it is spiced with a lot of scatological language here and there, but overall it passes the message the author wanted to put across.
"The reggae singers...were the first to recognize that the voice coming out of our mouths was a legitimate voice of fiction...that the son of the market woman can speak poetry," James said.
Michael Wood, chair of the five judges who declared James’ book the winner out of a shortlist of six, praised the fiction work even though it is full of swear words that one can come across on the streets of Jamaica.
"It may be controversial but only if you simply extract the swearing and drugs and stuff from the context," Wood said. "It could well be that it's not so controversial."
It is the third novel to be published by James, who now lives in Minneapolis and teaches writing at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the first Jamaican to win the Man Booker prize for fiction.
There is a cash reward of £50,000 ($76,000) for the Man Booker prize winner, and winning the prize has been known to fuel the global sales of books. Australian author Richard Flanagan won the prize last year with his book “The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” and it sold 800,000 copies worldwide after Flanagan was announced as the winner.
New York Times said James’ novel is "like a (Quentin) Tarantino remake of 'The Harder They Come', but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner".
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