Today is a day to be celebrated. Not only has the Man Booker Prize been awarded to an unashamedly comic novel (albeit one with serious undertones), but the first of the Chilean miners has been brought to the surface after 69 days underground.
I don’t think that Howard Jacobson will be too upset to be upstaged by Claudio Yanez. Although he has waited a long time for this level of sucess, I suspect that 69 days trapped underground, particularly the first 17 of those, may have felt unending.
Announced on radio as the winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize, Jacobson asked his interviewer, “You couldn’t just say it again, could you?”, describing himself as astonished and delighted. “It was beginning to look as if it would not happen.” He pointed out that he is the second oldest recipient of the award, only outdone by William Golding, who, in Jacobson’s words, “always looked rather elderly”. He admits having been rude about the Booker prize in the past. Echoing Clarkson he called it ‘an absolute abomination, the same dreary book year after year.’ Wolf Hall broke that reputation last year. It seems that, finally, the judges have caught up with the public mood.
And the mood today is ecstatic. In the background, the narration of the rescue continues. So far so good, but I don’t think anyone will relax until the last of the miners has been brought to the surface. As one viewer of breakfast television asked, who will close the door of the capsule for the last man underground?