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The Booker Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Booker–McConnell Prize (1969–2001) and the Man Booker Prize (2002–2019), is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom. The winner of the Booker Prize is generally assured international renown and success; therefore, the prize is of great significance for the book trade.[1] From its inception, only novels written by Commonwealth, Irish, and South African (and later Zimbabwean) citizens were eligible to receive the prize; in 2014 it was widened to any English-language novel—a change that proved controversial.[2][3]

A high-profile literary award in British culture, the Booker Prize is greeted with anticipation and fanfare.[4] It is also a mark of distinction for authors to be selected for inclusion in the shortlist or even to be nominated for the "longlist".

For a book, translated into English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland, the International Booker Prize is awarded.[5]

History and administration

The prize was originally established as the Booker–McConnell Prize, after the company Booker, McConnell Ltd began sponsoring the event in 1969;[6]

The Booker Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Booker–McConnell Prize (1969–2001) and the Man Booker Prize (2002–2019), is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom. The winner of the Booker Prize is generally assured international renown and success; therefore, the prize is of great significance for the book trade.[1] From its inception, only novels written by Commonwealth, Irish, and South African (and later Zimbabwean) citizens were eligible to receive the prize; in 2014 it was widened to any English-language novel—a change that proved controversial.[2][3]

A high-profile literary award in British culture, the Booker Prize is greeted with anticipation and fanfare.[4] It is also a mark of distinction for authors to be selected for inclusion in the shortlist or even to be nominated for the "longlist".

For a book, translated into English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland, the International Booker Prize is awarded.[5]

In 1972, winning

In 1972, winning writer John Berger, known for his Marxist worldview, protested during his acceptance speech against Booker McConnell. He blamed Booker's 130 years of sugar production in the Caribbean for the region's modern poverty.[12][13] Berger donated half of his £5,000 prize to the British Black Panther movement, because it had a socialist and revolutionary perspective in agreement with his own.[6][12][14]

In 1980, Anthony Burgess, writer of Earthly Powers, refused to attend the ceremony unless it was confirmed to him in advance whether he had won.[6] His was one of two books considered likely to win, the other being Rites of Passage by William Golding. The judges decided only 30 minutes before the ceremony, giving the prize to Golding. Both novels had been seen as favourites to win leading up to the prize, and the dramatic "literary battle" between two senior writers made front-page news.[6][15]

In 1981, nominee John Banville wrote a letter to The Guardian requesting that the prize be given to him so that he could use the money to buy every copy of the longlisted books in Ireland and donate them to libraries, "thus ensu

In 1981, nominee John Banville wrote a letter to The Guardian requesting that the prize be given to him so that he could use the money to buy every copy of the longlisted books in Ireland and donate them to libraries, "thus ensuring that the books not only are bought but also read — surely a unique occurrence."[6][16]

Judging for the 1983 award produced a draw between J. M. Coetzee's Life & Times of Michael K and Salman Rushdie's Shame, leaving chair of judges Fay Weldon to choose between the two. According to Stephen Moss in The Guardian, "Her arm was bent and she chose Rushdie," only to change her mind as the result was being phoned through.[11]

In 1992, the jury split the prize between Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient and Barry Unsworth's Sacred Hunger. This prompted the foundation to draw up a rule that made it mandatory for the appointed jury to make the award to just a single author/book.

In 1993, two of the judges threatened to walk out when Trainspotting appeared on the longlist; Irvine Welsh's novel was pulled from the shortlist to satisfy them. The novel would later receive critical acclaim, and is now considered Welsh's masterpiece.[17]

The choice of James Kelman's book How Late It Was, How Late as 1994 Booker Prize winner proved to be one of the most controversial in the award's history.[18] Rabbi Julia Neuberger, one of the judges, declared it "a disgrace" and left the event, later deeming the book to be "crap"; WHSmith's marketing manager called the award "an embarrassment to the whole book trade"; Waterstone's in Glasgow sold a mere 13 copies of Kelman's book the following week.[19] In 1994, The Guardian's literary editor Richard Gott, citing the lack of objective criteria and the exclusion of American authors, described the prize as "a significant and dangerous iceberg in the sea of British culture that serves as a symbol of its current malaise."[6][20]

In 1997, the decision to award Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things proved controversial. Carmen Callil, chair of the previous year's Booker judges, called it an "execrable" book and said on television that it should not even have been on the shortlist. Booker Prize chairman Martyn Goff said Roy won because nobody objected, following the rejection by the judges of Bernard MacLaverty's shortlisted book due to their dismissal of him as "a wonderful short-story writer and that Grace Notes was three short stories strung together."[21]

Before 2001, each year's longlist of nominees was not publicly revealed.[22] In 2001, A. L. Kennedy, who was a judge in 1996, called the prize "a pile of crooked nonsense" with the winner determined by "who knows who, who's sleeping with who, who's selling drugs to who, who's married to who, whose turn it is".[11]

The Booker Prize created a permanent home for the archives from 1968 to present at Oxford Brookes University Library. The Archive, which encompasses the administrative history of the Prize from 1968 to date, collects together a diverse range of material, including corresponden

The Booker Prize created a permanent home for the archives from 1968 to present at Oxford Brookes University Library. The Archive, which encompasses the administrative history of the Prize from 1968 to date, collects together a diverse range of material, including correspondence, publicity material, copies of both the Longlists and the Shortlists, minutes of meetings, photographs and material relating to the awards dinner (letters of invitation, guest lists, seating plans). Embargoes of ten or twenty years apply to certain categories of material; examples include all material relating to the judging process and the Longlist prior to 2002.[23]

Between 2005 and 2008, the Booker Prize alternated between writers from Ireland and India. "Outsider" John Banville began this trend in 2005 when his novel The Sea was selected as a surprise winner:[24] Boyd Tonkin, literary editor of The Independent, famously condemned it as "possibly the most perverse decision in the history of the award" and rival novelist Tibor Fischer poured scorn on Banville's victory.[25] Kiran Desai of India won in 2006. Anne Enright's 2007 victory came about due to a jury badly split over Ian McEwan's novel On Chesil Beach. The following year it was India's turn again, with Aravind Adiga narrowly defeating Enright's fellow Irishman Sebastian Barry.[26]

Historically, the winner of the Booker Prize had been required to be a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Republic of Ireland, or Zimbabwe. It was announced on 18 September 2013 that future Booker Prize awards would consider authors from anywhere in the world, so long as their work was in English and published in the UK.[27] This change proved controversial in literary circles. Former winner A. S. Byatt and former judge John Mullan said the prize risked diluting its identity, whereas former judge A. L. Kennedy welcomed the change.[2][3][28] Following this expansion, the first winner not from the Commonwealth, Ireland, or Zimbabwe was American Paul Beatty in 2016. Another American, George Saunders, won the following year.[29] In 2018, publishers sought to reverse the change, arguing that the inclusion of American writers would lead to homogenisation, reducing diversity and opportunities everywhere, including in America, to learn about "great books that haven't already been widely heralded."[28]

Man Group announced in early 2019 that the year's prize would be the last of eighteen under their sponsorship.[30] A new sponsor, Crankstart – a charitable foundation run by Sir Michael Moritz and his wife, Harriet Heyman – then announced it would sponsor the award for five years, with the option to renew for another five years. The award title was changed to simply "The Booker Prize".[31]

In 2019, despite h

Man Group announced in early 2019 that the year's prize would be the last of eighteen under their sponsorship.[30] A new sponsor, Crankstart – a charitable foundation run by Sir Michael Moritz and his wife, Harriet Heyman – then announced it would sponsor the award for five years, with the option to renew for another five years. The award title was changed to simply "The Booker Prize".[31]

In 2019, despite having been unequivocally warned against doing so, the foundation's jury – under the chair Peter Florence – split the prize, awarding it to two authors, in breach of a rule established in 1993. Florence justified the decision, saying: "We came down to a discussion with the director of the Booker Prize about the rules. And we were told quite firmly that the rules state that you can only have one winner...and as we have managed the jury all the way through on the principle of consensus, our consensus was that it was our decision to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners."[32] The two were British writer Bernardine Evaristo for her novel Girl, Woman, Other and Canadian writer Margaret Atwood for The Testaments. Evaristo’s win marked the first time the Booker had been awarded to a black woman, while Atwood's win, at 79, made her the oldest.[33][34]

The selection process for the winner of the prize commences with the formation of an advisory committee, which includes a writer, two publishers, a literary agent, a bookseller, a librarian, and a chairperson appointed by the Booker Prize Foundation. The advisory committee then selects the judging panel, the membership of which changes each year, although on rare occasions a judge may be selected a second time. Judges are selected from amongst leading literary critics, writers, academics and leading public figures.

The Booker judging process and the very concept of a "best book" being chosen by a small number of literary insiders is controversial for many. The Guardian introduced the "Not the Booker Prize" voted for by readers partly as a reaction

The Booker judging process and the very concept of a "best book" being chosen by a small number of literary insiders is controversial for many. The Guardian introduced the "Not the Booker Prize" voted for by readers partly as a reaction to this.[35] Author Amit Chaudhuri wrote: "The idea that a 'book of the year' can be assessed annually by a bunch of people – judges who have to read almost a book a day – is absurd, as is the idea that this is any way of honouring a writer."[36]

The winner is usually announced at a ceremony in London's Guildhall, usually in early October.

The scholar Luke Strongman noted that the rules for the Booker prize as laid out in 1969 with recipients limited to novelists writing in English from Great Britain or nations that had once belonged to the British Empire strongly suggested the purpose of the prize was to deepen ties between the nations that had all been a part of the empire.[37] The first book to win the Booker, Something to Answer For in 1969, concerned the misadventures of an Englishman in Egypt in the 1950s at the time when British influence in Egypt was ending.[38] Strongman wrote that most of the books that have won the Booker Prize have in some way been concerned with the legacy of the British Empire, with many of the prize winners having engaged in imperial nostalgia.[37] However, over time many of the books that won the prize have reflected the changed balance of power from the emergence of new identities in the former colonies of the empire, and with it "culture after the empire".[39] The attempts of successive British officials to mold "the natives" into their image did not fully succeed, but did profoundly and permanently change the cultures of the colonised, a theme which some non-white winners of the Booker prize have engaged with in various ways.[38]

Winners