Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Golden Man Booker Prize

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Booker Prize and as part of the celebrations The Booker Prize Foundation are awarding a 'Golden Man Booker Prize'. All of the previous 51 winning titles (there were joint winners in 1974 and 1992) will be reassessed to gauge which has best “stood the test of time, remaining relevant to readers today”.

Five judges will pick the best winner from each decade and their shortlist will be announced at the Hay Festival on May 26th. This 'Golden Five' will then be put to a public vote on the official Man Booker website and the winner announced during the Man Booker 50 Festival which takes place on the weekend of the 6th-8th July at London's Southbank Centre.

Of the five judges, the BBC Radio 2 broadcaster (and writer of teenage fiction) Simon Mayo has the easiest job: picking the best winner from the 2000s which, as we all know, is Wolf Hall. The poet Lemn Sissay will be considering the 1980s winners, which includes Salman Rushdie's Booker-of-Bookers champion Midnight's Children and my favourite winner The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.

The writer and editor Robert McCrum will consider the first twelve winners (1969-79), while poet Hollie McNish will choose from the eight most recent (since 2010). Novelist Kamila Shamsie might have the most awkward decision to make, as she will be revisiting the 1990s - the decade in which Booker judges failed even to shortlist all the most memorable titles (Regeneration, Birdsong, The Shipping News, Trainspotting, A Suitable Boy, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Bridget Jones's Diary, Enduring Love, etc.)

I think the big-hitters, the ones to beat, are probably:

In A Free State - VS Naipaul (1971)
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (1981)
The God Of Small Things - Arundhati Roy (1997)
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel (2009)
A Brief History of Seven Killings - Marlon James (2015)

If it were up to me, rather than re-rewarding a previous winner, there would be a prize for the best runner-up. My 'Silver Five' would look like this:

Impossible Object - Nicholas Mosley (1969)
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (1986)
Quarantine - Jim Crace (1997)
Unless - Carol Shields (2002)
Darkmans - Nicola Barker (2007)

Yes, I've cheated there, but I don't think anything from the 2010s would stand much chance in that company. And, obviously, in a public vote, The Handmaid's Tale would win by a landslide, so perhaps I should choose Flaubert's Parrot instead. Unless has one of the greatest first paragraphs I have ever read, and maybe if it had won the Booker, the whole #MeToo phenomenon might have happened years ago.

Before the Golden Booker though, there is the longlist for the Man Booker International Prize which will be announced on March 12th, followed by the shortlist one month later, and the winner on 22nd May.

The longlist for the 2018 Man Booker Prize itself will be revealed later in July, with this year's judges being philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah (chair), alongside crime writer Val McDermid, graphic novelist Leanne Shapton and critics Leo Robson and Jacqueline Rose. As per usual the shortlist will be revealed in September, with the £50,000 prize winner revealed on October 16th. Add to My MSN Add to My Yahoo! Add to Google - Get paid to have your say


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