0501 GMT November 29, 2020
According to the Guardian, Stuart, 44, has described himself as “a working-class kid who had a different career and came to writing late.” He is the second Scot to win the £50,000 award after James Kelman took the prize in 1994 with ‘How Late It Was, How Late,’ a book Stuart said “changed his life” because it was the first time he saw “my people, my dialect, on the page”.
Upon learning he had won, Stuart tearfully described himself as “absolutely stunned” and thanked his mother, who is “on every page of this book – I’ve been clear without her I wouldn’t be here, my work wouldn’t be here.”
He also thanked “the people of Scotland, especially Glaswegians, whose empathy and humor and love and struggle are in every word of this book.”
Stuart, who has already written his second novel, titled ‘Loch Awe,’ pointed to Kelman’s Booker winner behind him on his shelves. “When James won in the mid-90s, Scottish voices were seen as disruptive and outside the norm. And now to see Shuggie at the center of it, I can’t express it,” he said. “Young boys like me growing up in 80s Glasgow, this wasn’t ever anything I would have dreamed of.”
Margaret Busby, a publisher and the chair of this year’s Booker judges, said the work was “destined to be a classic,” describing it as “a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people and its values.”
Shuggie Bain was rejected by 30 editors before it was picked up by publishers Grove Atlantic in the US and Picador in the UK. Stuart, who was born and raised in Glasgow, moved to New York at 24 after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London.
He has said writing about Glasgow from the US “brought clarity, but it also allowed me to fall in love with the city again,” describing it as “a city of reluctant optimists by default.”
Stuart was one of four debuts among the six novelists to be shortlisted for this year’s Booker prize, whittled down from 162 novels. The final six contenders made up the most diverse lineup in the prize’s history, with Stuart beating the US writers Diane Cook, Avni Doshi and Brandon Taylor, the acclaimed Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembga and the Ethiopian-American Maaza Mengiste.
After last year’s judges provoked controversy by flouting the rules to choose two winners, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, this year’s judges’ meeting was “unanimous and quick,” said the Booker’s literary director, Gaby Wood. She added that “guidelines” had been added to the prize so that if the judges were split again, the majority vote would be honored.
The Booker has been criticized for having opened up entries to any author writing in English in 2014, with the British literary scene fearful the rule change would lead to dominance by Americans. This year, apart from Dangarembga, all the shortlisted writers were from the US or held joint US citizenship.