Authors back Barnes' Man Booker protest

Authors back Barnes' Man Booker protest

Authors such as AS Byatt, Philip Hensher and Susan Hill have expressed their support for Julian Barnes, who earlier this week said US authors should not be eligible for the Man Booker Prize.

Barnes told the Radio Times the decision to make US authors eligible for the prize in 2014 was “daft”. Previously the prize was only open for writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth.

“I don’t agree with opening up the Booker for the Americans. I think that’s straightforwardly daft. The Americans have got enough prizes of their own,” he said.

“The idea of [the Man Booker] being Britain, Ireland, the old Commonwealth countries and new voices in English from around the world gave it a particular character and meant it could bring on writers. If you also include Americans – and get a couple of heavy hitters – then the unknown Canadian novelist hasn’t got a chance."

Hill told the Guardian she was “totally in agreement” with Barnes. “I have nothing against American authors but they have so many prizes of their own.”

Byatt and Hensher also voiced their support, with a spokesperson for Byatt saying: “Dame Antonia agrees with everything that Julian Barnes has said about this.”

Amanda Craig, novelist and children’s literature critic, said removing a platform that was specifically for British and Commonwealth writers hurts their careers. “The point is, Americans are not only different culturally but they have loads more support via creative writing programmes – they can actually make a living as literary novelists. We can’t. A prize, or even just getting on to the longlist of a major prize, is not the difference between surviving and living but between surviving and not surviving, being published and not being published.”

Last month US author Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize 2016 for his novel The Sellout (Oneworld).

Chair of the judges Amanda Foreman said the book was "a novel for our times" because it "plunges into the heart of contemporary American society, with an absolutely savage wit”.