Will American authors qualify for the Man Booker Prize starting next year?
News reports are circulating that the prestigious prize, which in the past has been open only to authors from the UK, Ireland, and countries that are known as the Commonwealth Nations, will consider works by American writers next year.
However, according to the Guardian, the Man Booker Prize literary director Ion Trewin said of the stories, “There are going to be some changes to the rules of the Man Booker prize for fiction which have been in discussion for some while. The information which is currently in circulation is incomplete.” The full announcement will be released Wednesday, Trewin said.
The Man Booker Prize is awarded each year to an author from one of the aforementioned countries whose book is released in English and not self-published. Last year’s prize was given to author Hilary Mantel for her novel “Bring Up the Bodies” and the shortlist for this year’s prize, consisting of six nominees, was recently announced. The Booker Prize winner receives 50,000 pounds (about $80,000) and this year’s award winner will be announced on Oct. 15.
In its report on the Booker possibly beginning to accept American writers, Sunday Times writer Richard Brooks wrote that “organisers increasingly believe that excluding writers from America is anachronistic. The Booker committee believes US writers must be allowed to compete to ensure the award’s global reputation.”
When the story began circulating, some were pleased to hear the prize would be open to more writers, with Booker Prize winner Kazuo Ishigoro telling the Independent that “it's sad in a way because of the traditions of the Booker, and I can understand some people feeling a bit miffed, but the world has changed and it no longer makes sense to split up the writing world in this way.”
But many others seem wary of the possibility. Writer Jim Crace, who is nominated for the prize this year for his novel “Harvest,” told the Independent that he thinks “all prizes [should be] open to everyone. But I think prizes need to have their own characters, and sometimes those characters are defined by their limitations… If you open the Booker prize to all people writing in the English language it would be a fantastic overview of English language literature but it would lose a focus. I’m very fond of the sense of the Commonwealth. There’s something in there that you would lose if you open it up to American author.”
Former Booker winner Howard Jacobson said in an interview with the Telegraph that the move would be the “wrong decision. That's all I'm going to say.”
Writer Melvyn Bragg agreed, telling the Sunday Times that he was “disappointed ... though not that surprised.”
“The Booker will now lose its distinctiveness,” he said. “It's rather like a British company being taken over by some worldwide conglomerate.”
Author Linda Grant, who was nominated for the Booker, said she felt making the prize open to American authors would be unfair because writers from the UK can’t be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
“There are two career-changing prizes, the Booker and the Pulitzer,” she told the Guardian. “If the Booker is open to US authors it will create a huge imbalance.”