When Yann Martel's Life of Pi won the Man Booker Prize

Yann Martel's Man Booker Prize win made the Canadian author feel as though he'd won the lottery.

Canadian author likened receiving prestigious award to 'winning the lottery'

Yann Martel wins the Man Booker Prize

19 years ago
A Canadian author wins a major literary prize in 2002. 0:14

Yann Martel compared it to winning the lottery — though being on the short list for the Man Booker Prize gave him much better odds of success than your average lottery player.

On Oct. 22, 2002, Martel's Life of Pi was awarded the £50,000 prize in London. The Canadian author jumped up from his chair with excitement when his name was announced. 

"It feels like winning the lottery. I think all people who win big prizes like this say that, but that's the one thing I've learned from this experience," said Martel, then 39 years old.

Two other Canadian writers — Carol Shields and Rohinton Mistry — had been up for the award, alongside Martel.

3rd Canadian to take prize

The award goes to ... Yann Martel

19 years ago
Yann Martel reacts to winning the Man Booker Prize. 0:42

Martel was the third Canadian to win the prize since it was first awarded in 1969. He followed Michael Ondaatje (for The English Patient in 1992) and Margaret Atwood (for The Blind Assassin in 2000 and again in 2019 for The Testaments).

Until 2014, only authors from the Commonwealth, Ireland and South Africa were eligible for the prize. After that, it was expanded to anyone writing an English-language book of fiction published in the U.K.

The third Canadian to win the Man Booker Prize

19 years ago
In 2002, Yann Martel became the third Canadian to win the Man Booker Prize. 0:50

The National's report on Martel's win mentioned the fact that just getting nominated for the Man Booker Prize had helped increase its sales ten-fold.

"Now that Martel has won the [Man] Booker Prize, his book sales are expected to go through the roof," the CBC's Azeb Wolde-Giorghis reported.

Indeed, Life of Pi went on to sell millions of copies, including more than 3 million copies in the United Kingdom alone, according to a report by the Telegraph newspaper.

A film adaptation of Life of Pi would hit the big screen 10 years after Martel's prize was awarded. The movie version of Martel's story would see its own success, winning Oscars for its cinematography, direction, score and visual effects.

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