CULTURE & ARTS
10/13/2015 07:07 pm ET Updated Oct 14, 2015

Marlon James Becomes First Jamaican Winner Of Booker Prize

Marlon James was rejected 78 times for his first novel, now he makes author history.

Publishers rejected Marlon James' first novel 78 times. His resilience paid off. 

James, 44, won the 2015 Man Booker Prize at a ceremony at London's Guildhall on Tuesday for his nearly 700-page, third novel, "A Brief History of Seven Killings."   

He is the first person from Jamaica to win the prestigious literary award. 

His novel, a fictional retelling of the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976, explores Jamaican politics, race and other societal conflicts.

In an interview with GQ, James explains that although his novel contains personal stories, he was unable to ignore the larger societal and political issues in Jamaica. 

"I'm not trying to make a big statement or a message, but I am trying to make sense. I am trying to make sense of something my country went through. Because it makes no sense!" he told the magazine.

He added, "I just don't think people -- certainly not in Jamaica -- get the luxury of escaping politics."

 

Eamonn M. McCormack via Getty Images

James was born in Kingston in 1970 and studied literature at the University of the West Indies

In a 2014 interview with The New York Times, James, who previously worked outside literature, described a "lack of sense of possibility" in the craft in his homeland, and was therefore determined to return to literature. 

In a recent interview with BBC Radio Scotland, James revealed his first novel "John Crow's Devil" was rejected 78 times by publishers before getting published in 2005.

"You have to believe in yourself because if you're a writer you're going to come across that moment, maybe once, maybe all the time -- when you're the only one that does," he told BBC Radio.

James published his second novel, "The Book of Night Women" in 2009. 

The author currently lives in Minneapolis and teaches literature at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.

He hopes his award for "A Brief History of Seven Killings" helps bring attention to the creative talent in Jamaica. 

"There’s this whole universe of really spunky creativity that’s happening,” he told The Times. “I hope it brings more attention to what’s coming out of Jamaica and the Caribbean."

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