Is The Man Booker Prize A Tarnished Trophy?

‘This year’s Man Booker Prize longlist reflects the diverse tastes of the judges, but can the winner restore the shine to this tarnished trophy?’ David Sexton’s screaming headline on 26 July 2018 edition of Evening Standard caught my attention. I am on the fence with his proclamation. The judges had to trawl through 171 submissions, and that must have been a herculean task.

Some of my colleagues in the publishing industry suggested the persistent changes had watered The Man Booker Prize down to a mere literary event which had little impact. Some of them surmised that it’s more disappointing because of the novels on this year’s list, while the longlist troubled others when the judges included a graphic novel.

Sexton claims the Man Booker Prize is a tarnished trophy, I think that is a tragedy, and I don’t share his point of view. However, I think opening the Man Booker Prize to American writers still had many in the literary world fuming. Staunch supporters of British writers lamented the absence of Jim Crace, Ali Smith, Kate Atkinson, David Peace and a host of other behemoth writers who seemed conveniently sidelined.

This year’s Man Booker Prize longlist has captured the attention of several literary pundits. Alex Preston applauded Ondaatje’s new novel as ‘barely held stories’ knit into a work of fiction as rich, as beautiful, as melancholy as life itself,  written in the visionary language of memory,’ while David Sexton described Warlight as ‘an extremely sophisticated work, like a complicated John Buchan.’ Also, Ondaatje’s ‘The English Patient’ recently won the ‘Golden Booker.’ That should surely put him on a high pedestal, but I wonder if his recent trophy would sway the judges? Could Michael Ondaatje perform his magic again by strolling into the Man Booker Shortlist on September 20? It’s all a waiting game. The judges would announce the winner at Guildhall London on October 16 and that’s roughly ten weeks away.

This summer, like the unrelenting heat, will undoubtedly throw a few surprises of its own. I better get reading, I intend to go through the 13 books in the longlist and shortlist six of the best before October 16, 2018.

Sandra David

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