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Weekly Roundup: Oscars, Bollinger and forbidden sex

Weekly Roundup: Oscars, Bollinger and forbidden sex

A footnote to the sad death of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala who, as many obituaries have pointed out, held the unique distinction of winning both the Man Booker Prize and an Oscar (two in her case – the same number as Elizabeth Taylor – for her screenplays for A Room with a View and Howard's End). The two prizes – the Boscars perhaps? – have other links too. When Jhabvala won the then plain Booker Prize with Heat and Dust in 1975 there was only one other book on the shortlist, Thomas Keneally's Gossip From the Forest. Keneally, of course, went on to win in 1982 with Schindler's Ark which, filmed as Schindler's List, then scooped seven Oscars at the 1993 Academy Awards. For good measure, Ronald Harwood, a trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation, also won an Oscar in 2003 (for the Best Adapted Screenplay) for The Pianist.

The Man Booker is well represented on this year's Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction. Howard Jacobson (MB winner in 2010) and Michael Frayn (shortlisted in 1999 and longlisted in 2012) are two of the five contenders. To add to the conviviality, Jim Naughtie, chairman of the 2009 MB, is a judge on this one too. The rewards for the winning writer (Deborah Moggach, Joseph Connolly and Helen DeWitt are the other aspirants) are multiple: a jeroboam of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année and a set of the Everyman Wodehouse collection. But best of all he or she will be presented with a locally-bred Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, who will be named after their winning title. Since Jacobson has been nominated for Zoo Time he must surely be the current favourite.

Tim Parks, one of the judges for this year's Man Booker International Prize, has been explaining why authors shouldn't be too precious about titles. His 2012 novel The Server has just been released as a paperback with an entirely different moniker – Sex is Forbidden, which makes it sound like a different book altogether. “I'm useless at titles”, says Parks, and Sex is...was one of his working versions. His German and Italian publishers wanted to use it and Parks realised he'd been “too squeamish and this was the obvious title, since the book is about the tension between everything implied by sex and everything implied by renouncing it”. So now it has a new name, which sounds good in English and German (Sex Ist Verboten) but absolutely irresistible in Italian – Il Sesso È Vietato.

For those who are impatient for the Man Booker International authors to hit town ahead of the announcement on May 22nd, Josip Novakovich will be in London shortly. He will be appearing at midday on April 16th at the London Book Fair (where he discusses creative writing) and again in the evening at Keats House in Hampstead where the subject will be modern Croatian literature.