January 29, 2019

The Unmanning of the Booker Prize


The Man Booker Prize is no more! …in name at least. Before I launch into some thoughts about that, first the remedial info.

As reported by the Guardian‘s Caroline Davies, the Man Group (a hedge fund company) has sponsored two of the world’s most prestigious literary awards for nearly two decades: the Man Booker for best novel in the English language since 2002, and the Man Booker International for best novel in another language since 2005.

Davies writes: “Man Group’s chief executive, Luke Ellis, said it had been a ‘privilege’ to sponsor the prizes for nearly two decades. But, ‘following a careful review of our funding initiatives,’ the group had decided to focus its resources on its Paving the Way diversity and inclusion campaign, and also on the Man Charitable Trust, which supports literacy and numeracy.”

For its part, the UK-based Booker Prize Foundation commented that “its trustees were already in discussion with a new sponsor and are confident that new funding will be in place for 2020. In the meantime the two prizes will run as usual this year.”

What other hedge funds out there might prefix the Booker you ask? Well, here’s a convenient list of all of London based hedge funds. The Toscafund Booker? The Capula Booker? Not quite ringing for me either.

Or maybe the prize will be sponsored the American way, through a bank, company, or franchise. The Nando’s Booker? No, wait, they’re based in South Africa. Booker Prize, by Victoria Beckham. I mean the actual trophy does look like a perfume bottle, doesn’t it?

Or really, who needs the Man Booker when you can have the Topman Booker. See what I did there? You did, but titillate your imagination with me, people. Gift cards for the longlistees, a team of outfitters for the shortlisters? Prestige, payment, prefitted suits. Am I on to something? Maybe not.



Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.