Booker Prize Makes Way for Obama’s Memoir
The literary awards season kicks into high gear every fall, with the Nobel Prize in literature, Booker Prize and National Book Awards often landing in quick succession. But this year, another major literary event threatens to make an already overcrowded fall publishing season even more chaotic: the release of former President Barack Obama’s memoir, “A Promised Land.”
Late last month, the Booker Prize said it was moving its award ceremony, previously scheduled for Nov. 17, to Nov. 19 to avoid overlapping with the publication of Obama’s book.
“We thought it unfortunate that two of the most exciting literary events of the year — the announcement of the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize and the publication of Barack Obama’s memoirs — were due to fall on the same day, so we’ve decided to give readers a couple of days’ breathing space,” Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said in a statement.
It is unusual for the Booker, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world, to delay its prize announcement for a single book’s release. The date change highlights how much gravitational pull Obama’s book has, with a first printing of 3 million copies and an all but guaranteed status as a megabestseller.
The Booker’s decision to move out of Obama’s way could also fuel new criticism that the prize, originally established in 1969 to honor writers from Commonwealth countries and the Republic of Ireland, has become too Americanized and increasingly focused on the U.S. book market. American authors have dominated the Booker nominees in recent years, following a 2014 rule change that made any novel written in English and published in the U.K. eligible.
Since the change, American novelists Paul Beatty and George Saunders have won the prize; this year, out of the six shortlisted books, three are by American writers, while a fourth author holds dual Scottish and American nationality. Two years ago, a group of prominent writers argued that the foundation should ban American authors from eligibility, but the foundation was unswayed.
The Booker, which in previous years has been announced in October, will now be awarded directly after the National Book Awards, which will take place in an online ceremony on Nov. 18, potentially creating a logjam of coverage that could dilute the impact of the prizes.
文／Alexandra Alter 譯／李京倫、核稿／樂慧生