International Booker Prize
February 22, 2005 3:54 AM   Subscribe

The short list for the new International Booker Prize has just been announced. John Carey, chairman of judges, discusses the prize and how he hopes it will evolve (Real Audio :: first item in the show) .

But, can Stanislaw Lem really win? Will it become a rival to the Nobel Prize for Literature? And do these writers really need another prize?
posted by johnny novak (23 comments total)
Robert Heinlein and no Haruki Murakami? This is going to turn into such a popularity contest.
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:31 AM on February 22, 2005

Number of authors in the list: 18
Authors I've heard of: 13
Authors with a book I can name: 8
Authors with a book I've read or that was turned into a movie I've seen: 6
Authors with a book I've read: 3
Authors with at least 2 books I've read : 2
I have some reading to do apparently.
posted by elgilito at 4:45 AM on February 22, 2005

You can drive yourself mad with these. The people who really need the prize are those gifted writers who have yet to find an audience.

My advice: think of literary prizes as suggested reading lists. Personally, I really like the Booker prize, and often read a few things from the nomination list. (I don't think I would ever watch or listen to the awards ceremony). I'm a little less enthusiastic about the Nobel prize for literature, but I am very grateful to the committee for bringing Derek Walcott to my attention.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:20 AM on February 22, 2005

This year it was announced at Georgetown University (where I attend school) so it was neat to be able to be present for the press announcement of the judges' list.

Oh, and they've been giving an award known as the Booker Prize for Fiction since 1969, so it's not *really* that new -- this particular award just targets fiction in English.
posted by armage at 5:36 AM on February 22, 2005


The International Booker Prize is new. Really new. So new in fact, that this is its first year.
posted by johnny novak at 5:41 AM on February 22, 2005

I've read about 18 of the booker prize winners in the past year. I decided to use it as a way to force myself out of my book reading comfort zone. Boy did it work. I have enjoyed 3 or 4 of them. The rest were either average or awful.
posted by srboisvert at 5:44 AM on February 22, 2005

Oh, and they've been giving an award known as the Booker Prize for Fiction since 1969, so it's not *really* that new -- this particular award just targets fiction in English.

Indeed, only now it covers English works irrespective of country of origin. This is its first year of doing that. In the past it has been a British competition.
posted by vbfg at 5:54 AM on February 22, 2005

To clarify.

The Booker Prize has run since 1969 and is open to writers who are citizens of the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland. It is awarded for a novel published in the previous year. It is a 'U.K. centric' prize.

The *new* and separate International Booker Prize is open to any writer who's books are available in English (unlike the Booker these can be translations). It is not awarded to a book published in the previous year and would seem like an award for lifetime achievement (though Carey refines this distinction in his interview).

In addition the Booker is contested each year. The International Booker will only be awarded every two years.

The two prizes are completely separate. Sorry for not making this clearer in the post.
posted by johnny novak at 6:11 AM on February 22, 2005

Yes, what vbfg said -- I was misremembering that the Booker Prize was a Commonwealth/Ireland prize. And it's okay, johnny, I know it's brand new, and they're separate. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by armage at 6:19 AM on February 22, 2005

Odd that Saul Bellow is identified as from Canada. He was born to Quebec but moved to Chicago when he was nine. He's almost 90 now, and seems like one of the most American of writers. If they consider him Canadian why hasn't he been nominated and won the Booker already? (Reading the clarification above, I guess it's because he wasn't a Canadian citizen.)
posted by TimTypeZed at 6:25 AM on February 22, 2005

I think the Man Booker Prize is an important tool in helping to foster and shape the current state of contemporary fiction. I think the International Man Booker Prize is an irrelevant piece of corporate sponsorship with a whit of in inspiring pub debate.

The money, sales and upgrade of status of the Booker Prize are significantly important to the winners. Would anywhere near as many people have brought Yann Martell and DBC Pierre if it wasn't for the Booker? (irrelevant sidenote: I thought both those books were two of the worst Booker winners for a long time) Are the sales and fortune of John Updike (who I suspect is nailed on to win) going to be improved by the Man Booker?

Also: so, these band of judges elect, say, Updike as their bestest of the bestest. In two years time, as it's being judged on an enitre body of work, stretching back over 60 years in some case, presumably the next shortlist is going to be pretty identical.

I sort of like the eccentricity, secrecy and global reach of the Nobel. This just seems like pointless brand extension.

(But at least Murukami isn't on there)
posted by Hartster at 7:03 AM on February 22, 2005

This just seems like pointless brand extension.

Agreed, and anyone who wins it is unlikely to need either the cash or the fame. And if Lem wins I'll lose all respect for it.

longdaysjourney: Heinlein? Were you confusing him with Lem? I can't think of two more different writers, but they do both get filed under "science fiction."
posted by languagehat at 7:58 AM on February 22, 2005


I agree with almost all you say, apart from the bit about Updike being a cert. My guess was Bellow as favourite, followed by Marquez, Roth and Spark. Though as they are all old, if one is "on the way out" I guess it might give them something of a lift in the odds.

Someone else's opinion, with a guess at odds.
posted by johnny novak at 8:15 AM on February 22, 2005

languagehat: Heinlein's on the "People's Choice" page. I hope (and expect) that the judges won't give much weight to recommendations submitted that way for the obvious reasons. Besides, part of the reason I check out the Bookers ever year is because the judging panel inevitably picks titles I haven't heard of. Another list of bestsellers is not what I want from the Bookers.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:43 AM on February 22, 2005

I would be so glad if Lem won. He's a totally underappreciated writer. I'm a big PK Dick fan, but when people describe him as the only writer of his type, I want to force them to read Solaris and Cyberiad.

I've read about 75% of this short list and will probably seek out the other ones, but I would put Lem up there with any of them. It's sad that people dismiss him because he was a sci-fi author because he was really insanely good.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:19 AM on February 22, 2005

I agree that this seems rather pointless. The good of the Booker, as others have said, is that it brings attention to writers who actually need it. I was hoping that an international Booker would be like the Booker but for all people writing in English, as I think the Booker folks do a better job at ferreting out interesting work than American prizes. Sigh.

Anyway, I'm rooting for Dame Spark. She doesn't get half the love she deserves.
posted by dame at 9:24 AM on February 22, 2005

Cynthia Ozick? Weird to see her name among authors like Bellow and Mahfouz. It looks like they made a list of each country's most famous author and then stuck Ozick up there for fun.
posted by painquale at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2005

Abraham B Yehoshua

posted by clockzero at 2:46 PM on February 22, 2005

I think I'm going to take Bellow to cover my money and bet Oe for the longshot. That's a Nobel winner at 100:1.
posted by underer at 3:20 PM on February 22, 2005

longdaysjourney: Heinlein, being dead, is not eligible and is almost certainly listed because the prize group is simply passing through web nominations.
posted by billsaysthis at 4:41 PM on February 22, 2005

billsaysthis: yes, I was aware of that when I first commented.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:15 PM on February 22, 2005

So what was your point?
posted by billsaysthis at 8:46 PM on February 22, 2005


What's your point, that you're an ignoramus? Abraham B Yehoshua is a great writer.
Described by The New York Times as "a kind of Israeli Faulkner," A.B. Yehoshua`s talents have established him as one of Israel's foremost authors, a novelist with a particular gift for capturing the mood of contemporary Israel. In a style which has been called "anti-stream of consciousness," he explores the animal instincts which threaten the facade of civilized people and examines their isolation from each other, their community and themselves.
Anyone interested in history and literature should read Mr. Mani, a fabulous novel (made into a miniseries that's also supposed to be very good).
posted by languagehat at 5:53 AM on February 23, 2005

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