Author Irvine Welsh has hit out at the Man Booker Prize at the Edinburgh World Writers' Conference, saying it is "based on the conceit that upper-class Englishness is the cultural yardstick against which all literature must be measured."
Welsh also said that his novel Trainspotting would struggle to find a London-based publisher today because the market was "much more defined". "If I was a young writer now I would be surprised if it was taken up by a big publishing house," he said.
Giving the keynote speech at the session on nationalism on the third day of the conference yesterday (19th August), Welsh said the winners of the Man Booker Prize have alternated between "largely upper-middle-class English writers and citizens of the former colonies, presumably to stamp legitimacy on this 'global accolade'". He said the failure of the Man Booker Prize organisers to respond to accusations of anti-Scottishness indicated that "the Booker apologists simply have no arguments to refute these observations. Hegemony not only breeds arrogance; it also promotes intellectual enfeeblement."
He added: "The Booker Prize's contention to be an inclusive, non-discriminatory award could be demolished by anybody with even a rudimentary grasp of sixth-form sociology. The academics who are custodians of the prize however, can only offer bland and complacent corporate PR speak in defence of an award based on the conceit that upper-class Englishness is the cultural yardstick against which all literature must be measured."
The session was chaired by author Ian Rankin, with the conference held to mark the 50th anniversary of the original Edinburgh Writers Conference, held in 1962.