Rotten literary prizes, for good or bad reasons

Margaret Busby, British publisher, of Ghanaian origin, has long campaigned for the book industry to truly express greater diversity. She had defended the choices of the jurors, who had thus gone in this direction.

And long live diversity!

Each of us makes judgments through the prism of who we are and what we have learned or internalized. This is why diversity has always been important. Diversity is a reality. “And to add:”The scope of this year’s books has allowed us to savor skillful storytelling, to be amazed by what unheard voices have to speak.»

But there was no lack of detractors, like Bernardine Evaristo… neither more nor less than the 2019 co-winner, with Margaret Atwood. “The selection is revolutionary for the 21st century. If you’re looking for new perspectives and storytelling, you’re likely to tap into some of the most underrepresented voices?»

So, finally, would this Booker prize have a political prism now displayed? Some commentators see here an approach which, rather than celebrating the most deserving authors – like Mantel, therefore –, salutes a real diversity.

The fact is that the Booker Prize has largely favored men, until recently: in 2014, a real cry uttered by several authors precisely deplored this systematic exclusion of women. However, by extension, any person of color would also reproach and without too much difficulty, that it was white people who won the Booker, very largely.

Should we come to a jury that would look at the works blind? The case recalls this joke, attributed to Isabelle Gallimard, when Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize. “It seems that the jurors receive books with black covers. But when we receive a CD, we understand that there is a difference, right?»

Yes, so what?

While Hilary Mantel cannot, this year, pocket the Booker Prize for a third time, and therefore leaves room for authors from other backgrounds – although all have American citizenship in common, with the exception of Tsitsi Dangarembga, Zimbabwean — what problem? Moreover, Mantel assured that it stopped the historical fictions: it will be necessary to aim for other rewards from now on. Note that the interested party had, for the time being, the courtesy of not throwing oil on the fire…

Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize D-Foundation, assures us:No one wins the prize because of what it is. A book wins for what it causes. What happened testifies to the faith of the jurors—among other things—in the first fictions. They found that these writers had a lot to say, and they did so in a much richer way, on their second reading.»

The jolts and convulsions around the Booker Prize and its £50,000 endowment could be amusing. But perhaps we will look (it would take a well-born soul) one day soon on the 2020 selection of the Renaudot prize – prize for journalists in essence. And not only the total absence of diversity, but above all, the quintessence of cronyism and cooptation in French industry.

Maybe someday…

via New York Times, Guardian

illustration: JosepMonter CC 0

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Rotten literary prizes, for good or bad reasons