July 8, 2015
Man Booker International Prize and Independent Foreign Fiction Prize evolve into all powerful super prize (still known as Man Booker International Prize)
by Alex Shephard
The Man Booker International Prize, which was previously awarded every other year, will now become an annual event. This “evolution” is being made possible, in part, by merger of the Man Booker International Prize and the Foreign Fiction Prize to form a new prize, which will be called the Man Booker International Prize. The previous incarnation of the Man Booker International Prize was won by László Krasznahorkai earlier this year; The Foreign Fiction Prize was last won by Jenny Erpenbeck‘s The End of Days, which was translated by Susan Bernofsky and published by Portobello Books.
The Man Booker International Prize 1.0, which had been won by Philip Roth, Lydia Davis, and Chinua Achebe, was awarded to an author in recognition of their entire body of work. The new version will recognize exceptional works of translated fiction and honor both authors and translators. According to The Bookseller:
The new prize… see the £50,000 award money shared equally between the author and translator. Each of the shortlisted authors and translators will also get £1,000, meaning the winning author and translator will share a prize pot of £52,000. The total prize fund is therefore £62,000. Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the Man Booker International Prize, said the new prize was “the most generous prize for a work of translated literature” to her knowledge.
Jonathan Taylor, the chair of the Man Booker Foundation, admitted that the biannual prize wasn’t working in a press conference yesterday—that the public was confused by the fact that the prize awarded bodies of work, rather than specific titles, and that the fact that it was awarded biennially meant that it was “losing momentum.” Prizes in Britain have gotten particularly competitive lately—the Folio Prize and the Man Booker seem to be having it out—and it’s seems likely that literary arms race played a part here. Simplifying the prize even further by limiting it to works in translation is particularly laudable—these are deserving works that often need all the help they can get. Hopefully the new Man Booker International Prize will be a boon to translated fiction.
The first new Man Booker International Prize will be awarded in May of next year.
Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.