Submitted by Leah on Fri, 2014-06-20 17:54
‘Nobody should go into a trade like writing expecting applause, or universal approval, or even popularity.’ The words are Hilary Mantel's, spoken to one of this year's Man Booker judges, Erica Wagner, in an interview earlier this year. Nevertheless, if you are as good and as important a writer as Mantel then applause, approval and popularity follow and so, now, does a damehood. Hilary’s CBE, awarded in 2006, has just been upgraded in the Queen's birthday honours list. Should the powers that be want someone with an overview of power and human frailty then a seat in the Lords is surely the next rung on her ascent.
Salman Rushdie has a new trophy to place on his mantelpiece alongside his Man Booker, Booker of Bookers and Best of the Booker prizes. He has just been awarded the 2014 PEN/ Pinter Prize by a panel of judges that included Harold Pinter's widow (and 1971 MB judge) Lady Antonia Fraser. The prize, which will be presented on 9 October, is awarded annually to a British or British resident writer who, as Pinter put it in his Nobel Prize speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination . . . to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’. That's a broad remit that doesn't so much encompass Rushdie's magic realist/historical fables but rather what the chair of judges Maureen Freely called Rushdie's ‘many years of speaking out for freedom of expression’.
Anne Enright, MB winner in 2007 with The Gathering, has been musing on the financial implications of literary prizes. Of course money and fame are not the reasons that drive most novelists to write but if you win the MB they come with the territory. ‘The Man Booker was always the prize I wanted,’ Enright says. ‘I found the fame alienating, but the sales afterwards gave me a good few years to write. It was on the New York Times bestseller lists for six months. The prize was the trigger for that. At one stage it started to dip, and I went out and wore out some shoe leather giving readings and meeting people. That put it back up again.’ So it is rather like a company investing its profits back into the company rather than paying shareholders a whacking dividend.
Gerard Woodward, shortlisted in 2004 for I'll Go to Bed at Noon, is one of the eight recipients of this year's Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize for books that deserve wider notice. A bonus for the winners is that the photographer Tif Hunter took their portraits using the Tintype process invented in the 1850s. The results are remarkable and intense: they can be seen here.
Oxford Brookes University is the repository of the MB Prize archive. As part of its ongoing roster of exhibitions relating to the Prize is its current offering, ‘Women and the Man Booker Prize’, which runs until 11 July. The MB is gender blind and there have been 17 female winners (a little under half of the total number of winners) so far so there is plenty of material on which to draw. The exhibition features among other things letters, newspaper articles, manuscripts as well as thoughts about the Prize from women writers and judges.