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Statement on behalf of the Booker Prize Foundation

Statement on behalf of the Booker Prize Foundation

The trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation are aware that a letter is in circulation to be signed by publishers asking the trustees for a discussion around the decision to ‘allow American writers to enter the Man Booker Prize’.

To date, the trustees have not actually received any such letter but a draft has been seen. Assuming that the content remains the same, the trustees are issuing this statement in response.

The Foundation welcomes any debate that would further the wellbeing of the prize, but would wish to point to inaccuracies in the letter. The Man Booker Prize expanded in 2014 to allow writers of any nationality, regardless of geography, to enter the prize providing that they are writing in English and published in the UK. The rule was not created specifically to include American writers.

Contrary to the belief of the author of the letter, the diversity of the prize has not been ‘significantly reduced’ in the four years since the rule change. The 2014, 2015 and 2016 shortlists all included four (of six) non-US writers, and the 2014 and 2015 prizes were won by an Australian and Jamaican author respectively. Moreover, clear trends cannot be drawn from a mere four years of data.

The judges of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction are charged with finding the best novel of the year, in their opinion, written in English. The trustees believe that this mission cannot be constrained or compromised by national boundaries. As Lola Young, chair of the 2017 Man Booker judging panel, said in her speech at the winner ceremony:

‘The writers whose work was submitted to us for this year’s Man Booker Prize, came from around the globe – for many of them, their cultural heritage as suggested by their biographies, is rich, varied and complex. They defy categorisation on the basis of nationality or ethnicity. Born in one village, town or city, at school in another, maybe attended university in another; they visit family somewhere else and have a job in yet another place. That’s the reality for vast numbers of people as they criss-cross the world, searching for ways to express, to discover, to pose, maybe even to answer the questions that perplex us all.’

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Four Colman Getty
2 February 2018