New Literature Prize to establish "standard of excellence"

A new literary award, The Literature Prize, has been set up to "establish a clear and uncompromising standard of excellence", with the advisory board claiming that the Man Booker Prize no longer does the job.

The board, for which agent Andrew Kidd of Aitken Alexander is spokesperson, said the prize "will offer readers a selection of novels that, in the view of these expert judges, are unsurpassed in their quality and ambition", with judges selected in rotation from an academy of experts in the field of literature.

"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," the board stated.

"We believe though that great writing has the power to change us, to make us see the world a little differently from how we saw it before, and that the public deserves a prize whose sole aim is to bring to our attention and celebrate the very best novels published in our time."

The Literature Prize, for which funding is "currently" being procured, will be awarded to the best novel written in the English language and published in the UK in a given year, with the writer's country of origin not a factor.

Authors including John Banville, Pat Barker, Mark Haddon, Jackie Kay, Nicole Krauss, Claire Messud, Pankaj Mishra and David Mitchell are cited as supporters, as are "numerous people in the publishing industry".

This year's shortlist for the Man Booker has drawn criticism for its omission of much-praised novels including Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child and Edward St Aubyn's At Last, with the judges saying "readability" had been high on their list of priorities in making their choices.

Chair of the judges Stella Rimington poured scorn on critics of the shortlist in the Guardian last week, saying: "It's pathetic that so-called literary critics are abusing my judges and me. They live in such an insular world they can't stand their domain being
intruded upon."