British author Mantel wins Booker Prize

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(AFP) -

British author Hilary Mantel was named winner of the prestigious Booker Prize for fiction Tuesday, beating the likes of J.M. Coetzee and A.S. Byatt.

Mantel's "Wolf Hall", a historical novel about English king Henry VIII's advisor Thomas Cromwell, was named winner at a ceremony at London's Guildhall. It was the bookmakers' favourite to win.

Accepting the prize, Mantel said: "I can tell you that at this moment, I'm happily flying through the air."

One of the literary world's most prestigious awards, the annual Booker Prize goes to the best work of fiction by an author from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.

It comes with a winner's cheque for 50,000 pounds (80,000 dollars, 54,000 euros) and all but guarantees worldwide readership and an upsurge in book sales.

Last year's winner was India's Aravind Adiga for his debut novel "The White Tiger", which has sold more than half a million copies and been translated into 30 languages.

Mantel, 57, spent five years writing Wolf Hall and is currently working on a sequel.

Chairman of judges and BBC journalist James Naughtie said the book demands "hard work" but yields "fantastic rewards".

"Hilary Mantel has created what one of the judges has said was a contemporary novel, a modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th century," he said. "We thought it was an extraordinary piece of story-telling".

South African-born Australian Coetzee was in the running for his fictionalised memoir "Summertime", while Byatt's "The Children's Book" was her nominated work.

Completing the shortlist of nominees was Adam Foulds for "The Quickening Maze", Simon Mawer for "The Glass Room" and Sarah Walters for "The Little Stranger".