American invasion damp squib for some Man Booker diehards

Wed Sep 25, 2013 7:46am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - No one but the jurors can say which of six short-listed books will receive the Man Booker Prize for fiction on October 15, but one thing for certain is the Americans are coming into the competition next year and the literary world is in an uproar.

It has been a week since the organisers of the prestigious prize for English-language fiction that had been reserved for writers from the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Commonwealth threw open the doors to Americans and authors from all countries writing in English. Words of praise and dismay keep flowing.

A blog by British writer Philip Hensher in the Guardian was headlined: "Well, that's the end of the Booker prize, then." But a piece by novelist Sophie Hardach in the online edition of U.S.-based the Atlantic bore the headline: "Of course the Booker Prize should get more inclusive - because English has."

In the 40-plus years since the first award in 1969, the prize originally known as the Booker has helped launch the careers of a host of now famous authors, from Nigerian Ben Okri, who won for his "The Famished Road" in 1991, to Irish writer Anne Enright, who won the 2007 Man Booker for "The Gathering".

Now the prize will be open from 2014 not only to the big names of American literature, including some of the best-selling authors on the planet, but also to what some literary agents and authors in Britain see as a better-funded, more cohesive literary scene in the United States.

They note that the United States has a host of prestigious prizes, such as the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, many open only to Americans, plus well-funded writing courses at universities from New York to Indiana and Omaha to California.

"If anything I'm a bit saddened" by the opening up to competition from America, Lisa Eveleigh of the Richard Becklow Literary Agency in London, said.

"I don't think writers get the help here that they get in America and I don't frankly think America needs it."   Continued...