Paul Beatty

Should US authors be eligible for the Man Booker Prize?

December 13th, 2016 by shaunna_whitters | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Should US authors be eligible for the Man Booker Prize?
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Since the announcement in October that Paul Beatty had won the Man Booker prize 2016 there has been an influx of support from across the country. After all, he is the first American to win the award and the recognition ‘The Sellout’ has received is more than well deserved. However, in the last week several UK authors have voiced their concern over the eligibility of American authors to win the award.

The award was opened to authors across the world in September 2013 on the condition that their work is in English and is published in the UK. However, Man Booker prize winner 2011 Julian Barnes led the attack on the award claiming authors in the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth had lost a ‘valuable opportunity to make a name for themselves’ despite this being the first year someone out with the UK has won the award.

There has been a great deal of support for Barnes with fellow authors uniting in protest. There have been claims that there are enough literary awards across the pond and that there are by far more opportunities for creative writing in the US than in the UK. Also, the prestigious award, which was once exclusive to only the British, was one of few that remained without competition from American authors. Now there is a strong feeling amongst authors that it is now more difficult than ever to gain the recognition necessary to win any award.

So UK authors are feeling hard done by but is there enough reason to react this way?

In a way, yes. There are too few literary awards in the UK and now authors are dealing with more competition in winning one of the most prestigious awards by facing authors who have perhaps had more guidance or development in writing a novel. However, the award is specifically for English language works which has been published by a UK publisher – not a US extension or parent company – so as long as the book follows these specifications then why shouldn’t it be eligible?

One example is if an American born author spent half of their life in the UK and wrote a book which was published by Black and White Publishing –  should they be exempt from the award simply because they were born in America?

It may seem pedantic but if the book is published by a UK publisher and is in English then, in my opinion, there shouldn’t be any complaints. We’re at a point in publishing where at least once a day someone will say ‘print is dead’ so perhaps this is an opportunity to create more competition and demand UK authors to write more and better.

In the three years since the rule changed this is the first year someone outside the UK has won the award and the long list included six British authors so there is still recognition for UK authors. Regardless of the outcome of the outcry from authors perhaps this is also an opportunity to look at the number of literary awards available in the UK and build on that.

The Man Booker Prize 2016

October 28th, 2016 by Aleksander Pęciak | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Man Booker Prize 2016
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The Man Booker Prize logoWho would have ever thought that one of the most prestigious British book awards may be given according to one, simple criteria: “the best novel in the opinion of the judges”? The uniqueness of the Man Booker Prize lies also in the jury which is not (as someone would predict) contained only of literary critics or professors of literature – but also readers reflecting multiple backgrounds: politicians, actors or journalists. Honesty and simplicity that is expressed in this prize seem convincing even for me, a rebel always skeptical to the tastes of highly regarded authorities. And it must mean something.

The general idea behind the prize is to encourage readers to read the winning book – and a true success of it can be measured by the increase of its sales. Every year since 1969 winners are granted with £50,000 for their books published in The United Kingdom, which makes it one of the richest prizes in the world. In addition to the main prize since 2005 there has been the International Man Booker Prize awarded to those whose work’s translations appeared in English. The money are shared between the international author and the translator of the book. The winner of the International Man Booker Prize was announced earlier this year – “The Vegetarian” by Korean author Han Kang, a story about woman embracing her idea of living “plant-like” existence, translated by Deborah Smith, a founder of non-for-profit Tilted Axis Press.

In 2016 we can be sure that satire is still alive. On 25th of October Paul Beatty became the first American winner of The Man Booker Prize. Two years ago the prize changed its rules and opened to authors from outside the Commonwealth, what makes his winning even more significant. His winning book, “The Sellout”, “takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and snarl”, and is, as described by judges, “a novel for our times”. Parodying racial stereotypes, Beatty presents the story of Bonbon, African-American living in Dickens, Los Angeles, and his struggles with accusation of reintroducing slavery and segregation in a local high school. The author has received the trophy from the hands of the Duchess of Cornwall. A victory of Paul Beatty is also a victory of small and independent trade publisher – Oneworld. Based in London and active since 1986, Oneworld presents novels advertised as “intelligent, challenging and distinctive”. I could not imagine better gift for the year of their 30th anniversary.

The Man Booker Prize for Paul Beatty is also a great disappointment for the raised hopes for Graham Macrae Burnet’s “His Bloody Project” published by Contraband, the crime imprint of Saraband. It was the bestselling novel on the shortlist and had the best recognition amongst its rivals. A Man Booker Prize would be the true icing on the cake – “His Bloody Project” translation rights in six countries as well as film and TV adaptation permissions were sold. The publisher is struggling now to meet the demands for the books.

But in the terms of the mission of the prize, we can easily say that it is completed – sales for all the nominated books has risen, which proves its real impact on the readership and readers’ choices.