The 2005 Booker Prize winner has launched a scathing attack on the “woke movement”, saying it has become a “religious cult”.
Irish novelist John Banville also played down his chances of winning the Booker Prize in today’s environment as a “white, straight man”.
The 74-year-old made the remarks at the Hay Festival Winter Weekend when asked whether, in a time of “woke suspicion about white, straight men”, he could win the prize again.
Banville, who won the Booker Prize in 2005 for “The Sea”, a book later adapted into a film, was not optimistic about his chances of winning the coveted award today.
“I would not like to be starting out now, certainly. It’s very difficult,” he said.
“I despise this ‘woke’ movement. Why were they asleep for so long? The same injustices were going on. It’s become a religious cult.”
“You see people kneeling in the street, holding up their fists – that’s not going to do anything for black people,” Banville insisted.
The remarks come after Douglas Stuart, a gay man, won the Booker Prize this year for his autobiographical account of being brought up in Glasgow with his alcoholic mother.
Commentators have noted that this year’s prize was the most diverse in its history, with four writers of colour, four women, and no straight men included in the shortlist.
Last year saw two women share the Booker Prize, one of whom was the first black woman and former lesbian to win the accolade.
Women have won four of the last ten Booker Prizes, with white men also winning four and black men (including gay author Marlon James) winning two.
Banville, who has also won the Franz Kafka Prize and Irish PEN Award, was criticised in 2005 for his acceptance speech, in which he said “it’s nice to see a work of art winning the Booker Prize.”
He also criticised Salam Rushdie in 2012, saying he is “not a serious writer” and labelled Ian McEwan’s novel “Saturday” a “dismayingly bad book”.