Starting next year, anyone can win the Booker Prize, regardless of his or her nationality. During a press conference today, the trustees of the Man Booker Prize announced that they are expanded the prize's eligibility to include "novels originally written in English and published in the U.K., regardless of the nationality of the author." So that means anyone — American, Icelandic, Argentinian, Cameroonian, whatever — can win the prize, as long as he or she meets the above criteria. (Only novels entered by U.K. publishers will be considered, however.)
The second big change to the prize concerns publishers. In answer to concerns that the judges would get flooded by books once the prize eligibility was expanded, the trustees decided that all publishers will now only be guaranteed one submission, not two.
That might be bad news to some, but in a bid to appease large and successful publishers (who presumably have more books to choose from than indie houses), some will be allowed to submit up to four books. Publishers with five or more appearances on the Booker longlists from the last five years will now have four entries. Three to four appearances gets you three submissions, one or two gets you two submissions and no appearances means you just get the one. Nothing else changes.
The trustees first began considering expanding the prize in 2011, when their network of consultants and independent specialists began canvasing the literary world on both sides of the pond. For a while they considered simply setting up a new prize for U.S. authors, but "were wary of jeopardizing, or diluting, the existing Man Booker Prize." Instead, they decided they could raise the prestige of the prize by expanding it to, basically, everyone.
News first broke that the prize would be expanded to Americans over the weekend, and while plenty of British authors are worried or upset by the news, the trustees think it's time to modernize and not exclude one of the major producers of English language literature. As one trustee put it, America's exclusion in the Booker Prize "is rather like the Chinese being excluded from the Olympics." He kind of has a point.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.