In a smart article for New York magazine*, James Wood explains that a new, ostensibly international Booker prize is really an “American plan camouflaged to look like an international one.” U.S. writers don’t qualify for the traditional Booker. And many British writers have balked at the suggestion that they should be made eligible, saying that U.K. writers can’t compete with American big guns.
The compromise is the new Man Booker International prize, which:
will be given every two years, and is open, rather confusingly, to any novelist writing in English or who has been widely translated into English. Too bad for that Czech or Afrikaans novelist who has not yet had the royal summons to appear in English.
In a few brief paragraphs, Wood uncovers the true goal of the prize, discusses the “furtive literary war” British writers have waged on their American counterparts “since modernism,” and touches on the ways prizes have usurped the traditional position of the literary review.