Is The Man Booker International Prize Not International Enough?

In Discussion by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

Man Booker International Prize largeAs we reported earlier today, Lydia David has received The Man Booker International Prize which is given once every two years to a living author for a body of work published either originally in English or is “generally available” in translation in the English language. So at complete-review.com, M.A. Orthofer, while acknowledging that Davis “is a fine choice,” notes:

“What stands out immediately, of course, is that this is now the third time in a row that the prize has gone to a North American author (after Alice Munro in 2009 and Philip Roth in 2011), and that four of the five prizes have gone to English-writing authors (longtime — nearly a quarter of a century — US resident Chinua Achebe took the prize in 2007, and only Ismail Kadare bucked what became the trend, in 2005). Obviously written-in-English fiction has a home field advantage, exacerbated by the fact that there have never been clear guidelines as to who should be eligible – recall that in 2005 judge Alberto Manguel ‘lamented’ that they couldn’t consider the likes of Peter Handke, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Michel Tournier, and Christa Wolf, among others, because not enough of their books were available in English, yet this years authors such as Marie NDiaye and Intizar Husain made the cut, more than two of either’s books in translation you’re unlikely to find in any bookstore in the continental US (or insular Britain).”

Is Michael right?Is the award too slanted towards books written in English while largely ignoring titles in translation and the rest of the world?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.