A majority of prominent authors of the Folio Academy have called on the Man Booker Prize return back to their original rule: choosing writers that are from the UK, Ireland, or Commonwealth countries.
This comes after fears of “new American dominance” appearing in the prize. It has been three years since the Man Booker began allowing any author writing in English and is published in the UK. Members of the Folio Academy was asked recently about the prize and a majority felt that Man Booker needs to change their rules again, to make sure that UK, Irish, and Commonwealth authors are equally represented.
As reported by The Guardian newspaper:
After the 2011 Man Booker chair of judges, Stella Rimington controversially stressed prioritising “readability” and books that “zip along”, the Rathbones Folio prize was established that year as a direct challenge to the prestigious Booker. The Folio, which set out to reward “daunting” fiction by any author writing in English and is overseen by its academy of 300-odd members, was first awarded to US author George Saunders in 2013; that same year, the Man Booker prize announced it would widen its remit to include any author writing in English.
Saunders himself would later win the Booker in 2017, making him the second US winner in a row since the rule was implemented in 2014 – an ill omen for some critics, who believe the character of the prize has been altered by the presence of weighty US writers at the expense of unknown authors in Commonwealth countries, who previously benefited from a Booker boost.
There are some strong points made here. As noted in the article, there are a lot of US literary prizes that only allow US authors to apply, so why should the Man Booker Prize be any different? However, it is really up to the committee to make sure that whatever list is complied, it is equally represented by all countries. Critic Sam Leith was in favor of keeping the rule,
I think that – angry though it has made a lot of UK writers and publishers – there’s a clear literary sense in the Man Booker having as its constituency the English language, rather than a territorial remit based on a semi-defunct postcolonial trading bloc…”