The results are in from the competition at the Cheltenham Literary Festival to determine which book would have won the Booker prize for the year 1945 had there been one. Brideshead Revisited was on the shortlist and its case was put to the selection panel by comedian, writer and Waugh fan Alexei Sayle. According to a report of the proceedings by Gloucestershire Live, Brideshead was edged out, coming in fourth in a short list of five. Nancy Mitford’s Pursuit of Love came third; second place went to By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart and the winner was Animal Farm by Geroge Orwell. Sayle is reported to have responded: “I don’t mind. I’ve got another event this evening.”
Some consolation appears, however, in another competition announced by the London Review Bookshop. This selected the winners of Booker prizes for the years 1900-1968 if there had been competitions in each of those years. Waugh’s Put Out More Flags was the LRB’s 1942 winner. Their 1945 selection was Mitford’s Pursuit of Love. Here’s how the LRB explained its results:
If the Booker Prize had begun in 1900 – rather than in 1969 – who would have won each year? This is a provisional set of answers: if you have better suggestions, please email us, or tweet us using the hashtag #Booker1900. (Years where the winner seems particularly unlikely we have marked with a bold exclamation mark: [!]) We will revisit this list periodically. We’ve decided to go with the post-2013 Booker rules, so any English-language novel is eligible.
The 1942 choice of Put Out More Flags is one of the provisional choices marked with an exclamation point so its status may be in jeopardy.