Friday 20 September 2013

For 'expanded' Man Booker Prize, fear of losing its British identity lingers

When the board  of Britain’s most revered literature award,  Man Booker Prize announced, few days ago, that the prize has been expanded to include non-commonwealth and non-British entries, anxiety steps in, taking over the literary space at home.

The chair of Man Booker Prize Foundation, Jonathan Taylor, had on Wednesday posted on the organisation’s website, announcing that the expanded literature prize "will recognise, celebrate and embrace authors writing in English, whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai”.
Zimbabwean author, NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names is one of the six shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize

Parts of his statement reads: “Today the Trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation are making two important announcements. The first is that the Man Booker Prize is to expand eligibility for future prizes to include novels originally written in English and published in the UK, regardless of the nationality of the author". 

Taylor explains that the Trustees' decision was not made so "quickly or lightly", but . "after extensive investigation and evaluation".

In apparent response, a section of the British media has distilled people's disapproval of the expanded Man Booker Prize. For example, a former recipient, Howard Jacobson described the announcement of the foundation as "the wrong decision."
Another writer and broadcaster, Melvyn Bragg told Sunday Times of London of his disappointment. "The Booker will now lose its distinctiveness.It's rather like a British company being taken over by some worldwide conglomerate."

Taylor disclosed that there was an initial plan to set up a new prize specifically for U.S writers. But in place of that "we agreed that the prize, which for 45 years has been the touchstone for literary fiction written in English of the highest quality, could enhance its prestige and reputation through expansion, rather than by setting up a separate prize".

He argued that the prize is now the "most important and influential award for literary fiction in the English speaking world".

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