By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘A Landmark Year’Tonight (July 5) HRH the Duchess of Cornwall has helped kick off the weekend celebration of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction’s 50th anniversary with a reception at Buckingham Palace. As Publishing Perspectives readers know, events set in multiple venues at the Southbank Centre this weekend will culminate in Sunday evening’s announcement of the “Golden Man Booker Prize” winner chosen by jurors and the public from five decades of the prize’s legacy.
The connection for Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is that she has been for five years the presenter of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction ot the winning authors, a stalwart friend of the award program.
The guest list for tonight’s reception at the palace included 10 Man Booker Prize winners:
- Julian Barnes,
- Paul Beatty, the first American to win the award under its “evolved” format of eligibility
- Peter Carey
- Eleanor Catton
- Kiran Desai
- Alan Hollinghurst
- Howard Jacobson
- Marlon James
- VS Naipaul
- Ben Okri
Additionally, guests included authors David Grossman (Man Booker International winner, 2017); Anita Desai (shortlisted for the Man Booker in 1980, 1984 and 1999); Colm Tóibín (shortlisted for the Man Booker in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2013); Graeme Macrae Burnet (shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2016) and ) Fiona Mozley (shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2017).
Also at the reception were former jurors Bill Webb (chair of the first judging panel in 1969); the Baroness Lola Young; Dame Carmen Callil DBE; Sarah Churchwell; Amanda Foreman; Anthony Grayling CBE; and Anthony Thwaite.
And of special note was publisher Tom Maschler, who with Graham C. Greene was responsible for setting up the prize in 1968.
In speaking to the gathering, the chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, the Baroness Helena Kennedy, said, “We’ve been really lucky to gather so many important people from the history of this prize. “The 50th anniversary is a landmark year for the Man Booker Prize, celebrating the past, present and future.
“The extending of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction to include all novels written in English … great ideas don’t respect boundaries.”Luke Ellis
“Literature has the power to change lives, quite apart from the writers who the prize honors tonight. It has an enormous influence in prisons, libraries universities and schools, the work of the Booker Prize Foundation would not be possible without the very generous support of the Man Group.”
And speaking for the Man Group, CEO Luke Ellis said, “We’re extremely proud to have sponsored this prize over the past 16 years and, in that time, we’ve seen winners from a diverse mix of countries and backgrounds.”
It’s notable that Ellis was unafraid to raise the subject of the “evolved” eligibility regulations which have allowed for non-British or -Commonwealth authors to be winners of the Man Booker for the past two years. Clearly, Ellis seems convinced that the prize is on the right course, despite criticism, saying, “The extending of the prize to include all novels written in English and the establishment of the Man Booker International Prize are merely recognition of something we all know–that great ideas don’t respect boundaries, that real excellence wants to perform on the widest stage possible.”
Information about this weekend’s Man Booker 50 Festival events can be found at the Southbank Centre’s site. The programming features more than 60 speakers and a series of debates, readings, and masterclasses, and Sunday evening’s (June 8) revelation of the “Golden Booker” winner.
Social media content about the ‘Golden Man Booker’ 50th anniversary events will be hashtagged #ManBooker50. More from Publishing Perpsectives on the Man Booker Prize for Fiction is here.