Man Booker Prize opens arms to all writers in English

CHANGE NEXT YEAR::Organizers of the award felt that current rules exclude a large chunk of English literature, such as those by US authors

Reuters, LONDON

Fri, Sep 20, 2013 - Page 6

The Man Booker Prize for English fiction will allow authors from any country to compete for one of the world’s best known literary awards from next year, organizers said on Wednesday.

The prize — which has been open only to citizens of the UK, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland since its launch in 1969 — will from next year see competition primarily from US authors, although any author writing in English anywhere on the planet can become eligible.

“The winner of the Man Booker Prize from 2014 will be able to say ‘I am the best in the English speaking world,’” Booker Prize Foundation literary director Ion Trewin told reporters.

Organizers rejected suggestions that the prize would be overrun by US authors and put British, Irish, Indian, Canadian and other Commonwealth authors at a disadvantage in the competition for a globally recognized prize that can mean the difference in sales between 300 books and 300,000.

Booker Foundation Trustee Helena Kennedy said organizers were aware of English-language fiction writers, not only in the US, but also in China, Israel and elsewhere, who were excluded by the old rules from entering the £50,000 (US$79,800) prize.

“To be claiming and being described as being the leading English language prize now in the world, it becomes strange that that would not include the United States of America,” she said.

Jhumpa Lahiri, who was selected for this year’s Booker shortlist won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, which is restricted to US citizens only. She was born in London, but grew up in the US. Some of the other shortlisted authors this year live and work in the US.

Trustee chairman Jonathan Taylor said that Jim Crace was the only British author selected for this year’s shortlist, which included authors who reside in the US.

The prize judges considered 151 books for this year, which were read by the entire judging panel before the long and shortlists were announced.

Six tales from gold-rush New Zealand to Zimbabwe, the English countryside and elsewhere on the planet were shortlisted for this year’s prize, which will be awarded on Oct. 15.

Hilary Mantel wrote herself into the history books last year, becoming the first woman and first Briton to win the coveted Man Booker prize for fiction twice with Bring up the Bodies, the sequel to her acclaimed “Wolf Hall.

The new rules will limit submissions to books originally written in English and published in Britain, regardless of the nationality of the author. They also limit the number of submissions individual publishers can make based on performance on the prize’s longlist in the past five years.