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A message about The Booker Prizes and COVID-19

A message about The Booker Prizes and COVID-19

We can’t go to an art gallery or to the theatre. We can’t hear live music or sit in a cinema. We can’t congregate, for any reason, for a while.

One thing we can still do is read.

At The Booker Prizes, we extend our sympathy to those who are suffering from COVID-19, and to those whose economic circumstances have been severely impaired as a result of it. The book-loving, book-writing, book-publishing, book-selling and book-celebrating community has been hit hard, alongside others.

The prizes themselves continue: judging meetings are held virtually, as are many people’s regular meetings now. Judges are reading books in digital form where they can’t be dispatched physically. And at midday on April 2, we’ll announce – online this time – the six books shortlisted for the 2020 International Booker Prize, along with information about how best to access these books when you’re homebound.

We’re also hoping to help see out this stretch by recommending the best of imaginary worlds: on social media, Booker Prize authors and others are sharing their favourite Booker-winning or nominated books. In doing so, they’re not just providing escape (though there is that too), they’re suggesting we can all think our way through this. As former Booker Prize winner Ben Okri put it recently: “We often misunderstand the role of the imagination at the heart of our cultural life. One power of the imagination is to enable us to see an alternative future where reason sees none…When we least expect it, we manage to be more than ourselves.”

With any luck, as we find new ways to communicate during this shared crisis, we’ll forge connections that will endure past its peak, and introduce more characters – real and imagined – to populate our altered lives.


- Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation