Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo joint winners of Booker Prize

Canadian author Margaret Atwood speaks during a press conference at the British Library to launch her new book 'The Testaments' in London Tuesday Sept. 10 2019

Evaristo won the award for her book Girl, Woman, Other which is an innovative polyvocal work of fiction about 12 primarily black British womxn (an alternative term for "women" in use since 2015 to explicitly include transgender women and women of colour).

Evaristo, meanwhile, at age 60 becomes the only black woman to take home a Booker, her first, for a work exploring the lives and struggles of different black women in the modern-day United Kingdom.

The award, one of the most vaulted in the literary space, was split with Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other. In 1992, "The English Patient" by Michael Ondaatje shared it with Barry Unsworth's "Sacred Hunger". In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. "It was the collective will of the jury to say 'We can not abide by these rules'". "In the '70s I was getting, 'Do you hate men?'" she said.

However after 5 hours of deliberations, Peter Florence, the chair of the 5-member judging panel, said: "It became our decision to flout the foundations". She has been shortlisted for four further books: The Handmaid's Tale (1986), Cat's Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996) and Oryx and Crake (2003).

The Testaments by Atwood, the 79-year-old Canadian author, is a sequel to her acclaimed dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale and picks up 15 years after the original story ends in the Republic of Gilead under a theocratic regime that is showing signs of decay.

She first won the prestigious award for her novel The Blind Assassin.

The writers will split the £50,000 prize money.

The Testaments was published last month, 34 years after the release of The Handmaid's Tale.

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"The more we talked about them, the more we chanced on we loved them both so worthy we wished them both to make a selection", Florence said.

Evaristo, who is of Anglo-Nigerian heritage, is the first black woman to take the trophy.

The 79-year-old Atwood, who wore a badge of climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, held aloft the arm of her fellow victor as they walked to the podium together.

Over her distinguished career, Atwood has won many awards, including the 1996 Giller Prize for "Alias Grace" and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature in the U.S.

Explaining the decision, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation Gaby Wood said the Booker Prize judges discussed all the short-listed books over five hours but found it impossible to single out a victor.

Florence said he wasn't anxious Evaristo, 60, would be overlooked as people focused on Atwood.

Missing out on the prize was the 1981 victor Salman Rushdie, who was shortlisted for his new book, "Quichotte".

The others shortlisted included Lucy Ellmann for "Ducks, Newburyport", Chigozie Obioma for "An Orchestra of Minorities", and Elif Shafak for "10 Minutes 38 Seconds on this Unusual World". Mr. Florence described her book as "utterly magical" and called it "groundbreaking and I hope encouraging and inspiring to the rest of the country". The book gets its name from three testimonies-of Aunt Lydia who has now established power at the centre, and of teenagers Agnes Jamima and Baby Nicole/Daisy.

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