Wood defies Booker critics

Wood defies Booker critics

Speaking on a panel about the impact of literary prizes at yesterday’s fair, Man Booker Prize director Gaby Wood hit out against critics who have accused the prize of “overlooking” authors or titles.

Wood said prize judges had “no agenda” when backing titles, and were instead drawn to “something that feels very exciting”. She added: “There’s always some discussion about who or what is missing. The thing that’s difficult, though, is the question: ‘Why is it missing?’ Does one group of people have automatic entitlement to a presence on the list, and therefore they are ‘missing’? No, they’re just not there. It’s not that they should be there and they’ve gone ‘missing’, nor that they’ve been overlooked. In fact, judges read absolutely everything, and come to a conclusion.”

The panel (above), which included Gunvor Schmidt, project manager of German award Deutscher Buchpreis, Italian author Nicola Lagioia and literary agent Elizabeth Ruge, also discussed the importance of diversity and personnel in judging panels. Ruge said: “[In order] to make the kind of curated selection [necessary for shortlists], you need mechanisms in place to make sure the decision is made year by year by different people with different credentials.”

Read our interview with Gaby Wood about her first year at the helm of the Man Booker Prize here.