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Booker judges slammed over 'Brits-only shortlist'

The Man Booker Prize has come under fire for tokenism after five books announced in a shortlist of six this week turned out to be written by Britons.

books Updated: Sep 11, 2009 18:39 IST

The Man Booker Prize has come under fire for tokenism after five books announced in a shortlist of six this week turned out to be written by Britons.

The sixth, written by the South African J.M. Coetzee, was a token outsider, Irish Times literary correspondent Eileen Battersby said on BBC Radio 4. Coetzee was among only a handful of non-Britons in a controversial longlist announced in July.

Battersby said the strength of the Man Booker Prize had been to look outside the UK and Ireland. She claimed the judges had included Coetzee as a token outsider in the shortlist.

Others on the shortlist are all British - A.S. Byatt, Adam Foulds, Hilary Mantel, Simon Mawer and Sarah Waters - whittled down from a longlist of 13 that included nine Britons, two Irish, a Canadian and Coetzee.

In an article published in the Irish Times, Battersby slammed the Booker judges for coming up with a contentious longlist that left out Indian Amit Chaudhuri (The Immortals), Malaysian Tash Aw (Map of the Invisible World), Pakistani Kamila Shamsie (Burnt Shadows) and Irish John Banville (The Infinities).

The absence of the Irish author William Trevor (Love and Summer) from the shortlist, she said, had been greeted with shock. "Trevor, who should be awarded the Nobel Prize, looked the certainty, but then so did Amit Chaudhuri and Tash Aw on publication. "Yesterday, and not for the first time, the Booker Prize looked in serious need of rescuing - from itself."

Lucasta Miller, a biographer and critic who was on the Booker panel of judges, told BBC Radio 4 the judges had chosen the best books and were not ticking the boxes. She said the judges did not leave anyone out because of their nationality.