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Man Booker Prize announces global expansion

Man Booker Prize announces global expansion

A message from Jonathan Taylor, Chair of the Booker Prize Foundation.

The expanded prize will recognise, celebrate and embrace authors writing in English, whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai.

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. 

The Trustees have not made this decision quickly or lightly. It was made after extensive investigation and evaluation with the help of specialist independent consultants’ research and consultation began in 2011.  Over the following 18 months the views of writers, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and others were canvassed on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. 

Initially the thinking was that we might set up a new prize specifically for US writers. But at the end of the process we were wary of jeopardising or diluting the existing Man Booker Prize. Instead 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. 

The prize is now regarded widely as the most important and influential award for literary fiction in the English speaking world. But paradoxically it has not been allowed full participation to all those writing literary fiction in English. It is rather as if the Chinese were excluded from the Olympic Games- I appreciate this analogy is not entirely appropriate. I think Sam Leith in the Evening Standard a couple of days ago captured the essence of what we are doing; he wrote ‘The territory of the English novel is the English language’. Fintan O’Toole writing in The Observer last Sunday about the shortlist headed his article ‘This glorious and anarchic English language that lets everyone in’. We are embracing the freedom of English in its versatility, in its vigour, in its vitality and in its glory wherever it may be. We are abandoning the constraints of geography and national boundaries. 

But other constraints there will be. All novels entered for the prize must be published in the UK and entered by their UK publisher; timings and processes will be unchanged; longlists and shortlists will continue; and above all the requirement that all judges consider all entries will remain. It is in this area that the second important change is being announced today. The number of books publishers are allowed to submit has long been a concern and we were wary of increasing the reading challenge for the judges. Accordingly the Trustees have agreed a modified basis for submissions from publishers which recognises literary achievement; this will be by reference to longlisting within the previous five years. At the same time the prize will continue to be open to all publishers, existing and emerging, all of whom will be entitled to enter at least one novel as well as proposing the other novels for the judges to consider. Arrangements for the call-in process and priority for previously shortlisted writers would be unchanged. We are reasonably confident that the new arrangement will be slightly less challenging in terms of reading than the 151 books the judges considered this year. 

Jonathan Taylor

London 18 September 2013

Watch the video of the press conference from 18.00 BST today on our You Tube channel