By Dennis Abrams
Writing for The Telegraph, Victoria Ward said it all: “American authors dominate the Man Booker Prize longlist for the first time, confirming widely expressed fears that Britons would be side-lined following a controversial rule change”
This year’s list features five Americans; the number of British and Irish authors have been cut in half to a total of four.
Leading literary agent David Godwin told Ward that it was “absolutely tragic.”
“Our worst fears have come to pass,” he told her. “The Booker Prize was established to celebrate British and Commonwealth writers but they are the real casualties here. They have been overwhelmed.
“Its nature has changed dramatically and the consequences are really tragic. There was absolutely no need to change the rules. None of the major American prizes are open to Brits. It’s a very sad state of affairs.”
Until last year, Ward explained, “the prize was restricted to authors from the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland, but the fiction award was opened up to writers of any nationality writing in English.”
Author and academic Michael Wood, chair of the judging panel, told the paper that he understand why many were upset about the inclusion of the Americans.
“I am sympathetic to that view,” he said. “But it’s much better to have a bigger prize for English language books. I think that’s a better deal.
“I think the fear was that predictable Americans would dominate, the ones who win all the prizes but that is not the case here.
“There’s a slight fallacy about the idea that if it’s open to other people they will automatically take over. It’s more volatile than that. It depends how many good writers there are.”
Here, then, is the list:
- Satin Island by Tom McCarthy (Jonathan Cape)
- The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan (Faber & Faber)
- The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (Picador)
- Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (Jonathan Cape)
- The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)
- Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Virago)
- A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (Chatto & Windus)
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador)
- The Green Road by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape)
- A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Oneworld Publications)
- The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (One, Pushkin Press)
- Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
- The Chimes by Anna Smaill (Sceptre)
The Telegraph‘s book reviews editor, Lorna Bradbury said: “This is a strong list that celebrates innovative novels from established writers as well as introducing us to some new voices. There are some big omissions as ever with literary prizes, but this list feels like a truly exciting snapshot of the fiction that is currently being written in English.”
The Telegraph reports that frontrunners include the UK’s Tom McCarthy and Andrew O’Hagan, Ireland’s Anne Enright, and the USA’s Marilynne Robinson and Hanya Yanagihara.
The bookmakers Ladbrokes have made Yanagihara’s book A Little Life the 4/1 favorite, with McCarthy the British favorite at 6/1 for his novel Satin Island.