Colm Toibin eyes Booker Prize with dark Gospel tale

Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:36am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Conor Humphries

DUBLIN (Reuters) - What surprises Irish author Colm Toibin about his latest book is that it hasn't been burned.

But he hopes the lack of controversy will not hold back his dark retelling of the Gospels, "The Testament of Mary," from winning the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday at his third attempt.

In the novel, an ageing, broken Mary bitterly recounts how "malcontents and half-crazed soothsayers" surrounded her son, helped lead him to a cruel death and then twisted his story to build a new faith.

In a country where just a few decades ago the Catholic Church could end the careers of writers it disapproved of, there has not been so much as an e-mail to complain about a work that describes the gospels as "poisonous berries."

"It is really interesting that you can write a book like this here and publish it and not a word," said Toibin, 58, in an interview en route to the prize ceremony in London from Los Angeles.

"It hasn't been controversial. It isn't as though it's been burned anywhere."

Toibin's is one of six novels in the running for the annual Booker, a coveted award that comes with a check for 50,000 pounds ($80,000), and, more importantly, a sizeable spike in international books sales.

The prize is open for the first time to authors from any country from 2014 as opposed to the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Commonwealth. Favorite in 2013 is Toibin's friend and English writer Jim Crace for "Harvest".   Continued...

 
Man Booker prize shortlist nominee Colm Toibin with his book "The Testament of Mary" takes pictures of photographers during a photocall at the Southbank Centre in London, October 13, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris