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Jonathan Taylor introduces “Bookermania” at the Morgan Library

Jonathan Taylor introduces “Bookermania” at the Morgan Library

The Morgan Library in New York is

The Morgan Library in New York is currently celebrating the Man Booker Prize with an exhibition which comprises more than four thousand first editions, proofs, manuscripts, letters, and ephemeral material related to the publication, promotion, and recognition of more than four decades of acclaimed works of literary fiction in English.

Read the full script from Jonathan Taylor, Chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation, at the "Bookermania" party delivered on 06 November 2013.

Good evening and welcome. I am Jonathan Taylor, the chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation in London.

In a moment, John Rohal of the Man Group in New York will add his welcome. The Man Group is, of course, the wise and generous sponsor of the Man Booker prize and is also a specific sponsor of “Bookermania”, the rather special Morgan exhibit next door, which I hope you have had a chance to look at.

Last month, we awarded the 45th Man Booker Prize. It was won by Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries”, a captivating and intriguingly structured novel, now available in all good bookstores. It is a particular pleasure that Eleanor Catton from New Zealand is with us this evening.

Eleanor, where are you?

Also last month, we resolved a paradox which has been with us for the 45 years of the Prize. The Man Booker Prize is regarded by many as probably the most important prize in the world for literary fiction written in English, and yet it has excluded a substantial body of literary fiction written in English, by being confined to the Commonwealth and Ireland. We have now agreed to accept literary fiction in English, whether written in Sheffield, Shanghai or Chicago, as long as it is published in the UK by a formally established imprint.

In this way we embrace the glorious and anarchic English language in all its vigour, its vitality, it versatility. The homeland and the hinterland of literary fiction in English must be the English language; it should not be constrained by passports or border controls.

But, as you all know, it is an important and fundamental feature of the Man Booker Prize that all the judges read all the entries, which this year amounted to 151 books, and which must be about the limit of any judges’ reading capacity. How are we to ensure that future judges are not overwhelmed by the significant broadening of the Prize’s catchment area?

The answer is in two parts. First the requirement for publication in the UK and secondly a modification of the quota system for publishers. This now recognises the relative performance of publishers in terms of longlisting, while keeping open the opportunity for smaller and newer publishers to submit at least one entry. The end result should be that the reading load on judges may be slightly reduced.

So tonight we are here to celebrate “Bookermania” at the Morgan Library and in a few moments to listen to Salman Rushdie talking to Bill Buford.

But we are also here to mark some very important changes to the Man Booker Prize, the winners of which will in future be able to claim each year to have written the finest novel in English in the world.