Booker Prize to admit American authors

AP News
Posted: Sep 18, 2013 10:50 AM

LONDON (AP) — The Americans are coming to storm Britain's literary citadel.

Organizers of the Booker Prize announced Wednesday that from next year authors from the United States — and around the world — will be eligible to win the prestigious fiction award.

Prize trustees said that starting in 2014, the prize will be open to all novels written in English and published in Britain, regardless of the author's nationality.

Founded in 1969, the Booker has previously been open only to writers from Britain, Ireland and the 54-nation Commonwealth of former British colonies.

That has not kept the award — officially known as the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services firm Man Group PLC — from becoming one of the world's best-known literary prizes, one that carries both prestige and commercial clout. Past winners include V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan and Hilary Mantel.

"The expanded prize will recognize, celebrate and embrace authors writing in English, whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai," said Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the prize trustees.

"We are embracing the freedom of English in all its vigor, its vitality, its versatility and its glory wherever it may be. We are abandoning the constraints of geography and national boundaries."

Organizers said the decision had been made to resolve the paradox of "the most important literary award in the English-speaking world" not being open to all English-language writers.

They said they had considered setting up a separate U.S. prize, but rejected the idea for fear of "jeopardizing or diluting" the existing award.

Books will continue to be submitted by British publishers and reviewed by a panel of judges.

Among the six finalists for the 50,000 pound ($78,000) prize this year are several writers with strong U.S. ties, including Jhumpa Lahiri and Ruth Ozeki.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony in London on Oct. 15.