The Booker Prize is heading across the Atlantic - but could it be gone forever?
Picture: Colm Toibin - 'The Testament of Mary' Broadway opening night after party held at Sardi's restaurant - New York, United States - Monday 22nd April...
In a move that could potentially see American literary heavyweights including Jonathan Franzen, Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo being honoured for their work in the UK, organizers of the Man Booker Prize - Britain's most prestigious literary award - have announced plans to expand the contest to writers outside of Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth.
Currently, the Man Booker Prize is open to any full-length novel written by authors inside those boundaries, though a change is tact is has been designed to raise the award's profile internationally. According to the Telegraph, organisers have become increasingly concerned that excluding writers in the US in anachronistic, though opening to the entry to the States now makes hundreds more books eligible each year - something former recipient Howard Jacobson called "the wrong decision."
The broadcaster and writer Melvyn Bragg said he was "disappointed though not that surprised" by the decision, telling the Sunday Times, "The Booker will now lose its distinctiveness.It's rather like a British company being taken over by some worldwide conglomerate."
Jacobson - who famously upset the odds to win for The Finkler Question in 2010 - simply commented, "Wrong decision, that's all I'm going to say."
Several publishers and agents representing nominated acts this year were also against the decision. Colin Midson, who represents Eleanor Catton - who is nominated for The Luminaries - said, "I think it's a shame. If you look through the list of winners for the past 40 years or so it has a very strong character: there's a certain type of book we in the industry think of as 'a Booker book', and now that will be less clear."
David Godwin, a literary agent who represents Jim Crace - the favourite for this year's prize - said, "It will be even harder now for British writers to get acknowledged. The Booker should stick to its guns."
Though the award potentially losing its identity is one thing, the distinct possibility that the award may remain in the U.S for successive years is another. For example, Franzen's last two novels, Freedom and The Corrections would have presumably been in the mix for the Booker Prize. As would Phillip Roth's The Human Stain - surely.
This year's Man Booker Prize is headed by Crace and Catton, though Colm Toibin is fancied for The Testament of Mary.
Jonathan Franzen Would Almost Certainly Have Won A Booker Prize By Now