The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje has won the Golden Man Booker Prize at a festival to mark the literary award’s 50th anniversary.
All 51 previous winners were considered by a panel of judges, who whittled them down to one from each decade.
The public then voted on their ultimate favourite and settled on Ondaatje’s romance, which was originally a joint winner of the 1992 prize.
Judge Kamila Shamsie said it was “that rare novel which gets under your skin”.
Accepting the award, Ondaatje said: “Not for a second do I believe this is the best book on the list – or any other list that could have been put together of Booker novels.”
He also said he suspected the Oscar-winning adaptation starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche and Kristen Scott Thomas “probably had something to do with the result of this vote”.
Despite now being judged the best book of the past 50 years, after its release, The English Patient shared the 1992 award with Barry Unsworth’s 18th Century slave tale Sacred Hunger.
In 2008, the Booker Prize held a similar competition for its 40th anniversary.
At that time, the public voted for Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, which originally won in 1981.