Salman Rushdie is top contender for a lifetime literary distinction, in a contest to choose the best-ever winner of literature’s prestigious Booker Prize.
The public will choose their favourite author in a one-off literary award to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Booker Prize.
Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is neck to neck in the race with The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Rushdie won in 1981 and Martel in 2002.
Bookmakers William Hill gave Rushdie 5-1 odds, but Ladbroks have given him even higher billing at 4-1.
The Life of Pi is a fable of survival after a shipwreck (2002) while Midnight’s Children challenges ideas of history and nationhood (1981).
Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (1992), which inspired a film that won nine Oscars, is the third contender in the William Hill list, with 7-1 odds.
The Booker Foundation said The Man Booker Prize for Fiction recognises the best novel of the year, but “the Best of the Booker” will honour the best overall novel to have won the prize since its inception in 1969.
This is only the second time that a celebratory award has been created. The first was in 1993 — the 25th anniversary —when Salman Rushdie won the Booker of Bookers with Midnight’s Children. This time, though, the public vote will decide the winner.
In all, 41 novelists have won the prize over the years.
For the Best of the Booker, a panel of judges has been appointed to select a shortlist of six novels. The panel chairperson is Victoria Glendinning (biographer, novelist and critic), Mariella Frostrup, a broadcaster, and John Mullan, Professor of English at the University College, London. The panel shortlist will be announced in May, after which public voting will begin via the Man Booker Prize website, www.themanbookerprize.com.
The overall winner of the Best of the Booker will be announced at the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre in July.