Booker Prize trustees said that starting in 2014, the prize will be open to all novels written in English and published in Britain, regardless of the author’s nationality.
The Man Booker Prize, described as the “the most important and influential award for literary fiction in the English-speaking world” might from now on actually qualify for that claim.
According to an announcement by Jonathan Taylor, chair of the Booker Prize, the prize will from 2014 be expanded to include writers in English from any part of the world provided their books have been published in the United Kingdom.
Thus far the Booker Prize was for literary fiction by authors from the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.
“The expanded prize will recognise, celebrate and embrace authors writing in English, whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai,” Mr. Taylor said.
The enlargement of the Booker’s catchment is expected to put more pressure not just on writers who now have more competition, but on judges too, now that its doors have been open to competing fiction from the cross-Atlantic English-speaking nation that has its own distinct and vibrant literary tradition. There is already media speculation on which famous American novelist’s book will be in the running for 2014 — Jonathan Franzen, Marilynne Robinson, Richard Ford ?
The decision to open up the Booker was not one that the trustees took “quickly or lightly” Mr. Taylor said. “Over the following 18 months the views of writers, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and others were canvassed on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.”
The idea of instituting a separate Booker prize for English fiction for U.S. authors alone was considered but dismissed as it would end up diluting the prestige of the prize.
“We are embracing the freedom of English in its versatility, in its vigour, in its vitality and in its glory wherever it may be,” Mr. Taylor said.
However, other rules remain: the books must be published in the U.K. and entered by their U.K. publishers, the practice of longlists and shortlists will stay, and judges will be required to consider all entries will remain.
Harvest by Jim Crace is the bookies’ favourite for this year’s Booker that has six books on the shortlist. Mr. Crace is himself not entirely in support of opening the prize up to U.S. writers. In an interview to The Independent, he said “If you open the Booker prize to all people writing in the English language it would be a fantastic overview of English language literature but it would lose a focus. I’m very fond of the sense of the Commonwealth. There’s something in there that you would lose if you open it up to American authors.”