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Welsh slams Man Booker Prize

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.

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Irvine Welsh has every right to his views. But the ManBooker prize can do as it likes because it is privately funded. It is not an Arts Council sponsored prize and does not receive any public money. So it can make up its own rules. He is wrong though to suppose that judges are in any way influenced or pressured to conform to ANY criteria other than those rules. There is scrupulous attention to the books submitted and to nothing else. Conspiracy theories abound but when I was a judge in 2011 we had made the Longlist decisions before someone asked how many male/ female writers were on it. None of us had even noticed. So as to country of origin and etc. - that is never an issue. It is the novels and only the novels that are considered. It would be perfectly possible, if there were enough submissions, for every book on the longlist to be written by a Scot.

Irvine Welsh has every right to his views. But the ManBooker prize can do as it likes because it is privately funded. It is not an Arts Council sponsored prize and does not receive any public money. So it can make up its own rules. He is wrong though to suppose that judges are in any way influenced or pressured to conform to ANY criteria other than those rules. There is scrupulous attention to the books submitted and to nothing else. Conspiracy theories abound but when I was a judge in 2011 we had made the Longlist decisions before someone asked how many male/ female writers were on it. None of us had even noticed. So as to country of origin and etc. - that is never an issue. It is the novels and only the novels that are considered. It would be perfectly possible, if there were enough submissions, for every book on the longlist to be written by a Scot.