Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
12 October 2011

Is it time for a new literary prize?

Leading figures in the publishing world think so.

By Jonathan Derbyshire

I blogged yesterday about the misgivings expressed here and elsewhere about this year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist. I ended by observing that “some in the literary world are wondering if it isn’t time to start another prize altogether”.

What should land in my inbox this morning but an email from the literary agent Andrew Kidd announcing the launch of a new literary prize. Kidd’s announcement begins:

The Literature Prize will be for the best novel written in the English language and published in the UK in a given year, and a writer’s country of origin will not be a factor. Our aim is to establish a clear and uncompromising standard of excellence, and the prize judges will be selected in rotation from an academy of experts in the field of literature.

A “clear and uncompromising standard of excellence” – now that would be something, wouldn’t it? That Kidd and his supporters (John Banville, Pat Barker, Mark Haddon, Jackie Kay, Nicole Krauss and Claire Messud have all endorsed the venture) see the Literature Prize as an alternative to the Booker is made clear later on:

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

The prize will offer readers a selection of novels that, in the view of these expert judges, are unsurpassed in their quality and ambition. For many years this brief was fulfilled by the Booker (latterly the Man Booker) Prize. But as numerous statements by that prize’s administrator and this year’s judges illustrate, it now prioritises a notion of “readability” over artistic achievement.

Kidd says the new prize’s advisory board are currently soliciting funding and that an announcement about this will be made soon. Watch this space.