In 2005, the people over at the (Man) Booker Prize gave out the first ever Man Booker International Prize -- an award given every two years to a writer for his or her entire body of work. Unlike the Booker Prize proper (which is open to no one but British or Commonwealth writers of novels in English -- not even short fiction collections are eligible -- and is given to an individual book), the Man Booker International Prize is open to writers from around the globe, writing in all languages and genres, and is intended to rival the Nobel Prize for Literature in prestige. As with the Nobel, controversies abound over the writers who make the shortlist, fail to make the shortlist, are chosen as winners, are passed over as winners. (Philip Roth -- whose following couldn't be more devoted and whose tally of prizes across his almost 50-year career is unsurpassed -- was nominated for his work in 2005 and 2007, but lost first to Ismail Kadare and then to Chinua Achebe. I haven't read Achebe -- I know, I know -- but I have read Kadare's novel Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, and it comes nowhere near the brilliance of even Roth's second-tier fiction, let alone a book like American Pastoral. Hence the controversies.)
In recent weeks, 2009's committee, chaired by novelist Jane Smiley, announced its shortlist nominees for the Man International Booker Prize:
Evan S. Connell
Mario Vargas Llosa
Joyce Carol Oates
Ngugi Wa Thiong'O
Of these, believe it or not, the only two writers I've read are Carey and Doctorow. Carey -- on whose work I wrote my M.A. thesis -- is my favorite living novelist. Doctorow (who has won the PEN/Faulkner Award twice, the National Book Award once and the National Book Critics Circle Award three times) is splendid in his own right -- I've only read his City of God, but it blew my fuses, to be sure.
The winner will be announced on 27 May.
Booking a Room with a View
Join me as I shuttle and shoulder through the worlds of literature, cinema, and the awards seasons attending both.