The SuperBooker? The Bobel?

Brief riff on the subject of naming literary prizes: don’t. The Man Booker International Prize is already being called the Superbooker (I suggest the Bobel, as a sort of alternate Nobel thingie, but think that the Binternational might have certain undertones). Perhaps we should call them, I dunno, by fuzzy little Disneyesque names. The Betty Trash, oops, Trask prize would become the Minnie Mouse award, because it always seems to go to cute, little novels that annoy the hell out of you, the Whitbread would be Cinderella and the Ondaatje award would definitely be Goofy. (Donald Duck would be whichever prize gets caught with its pants down most often.)
Anyway. The 2005 shortlist for the Man Booker International is out and I have a vision of the judges’ panel telling both Naipaul and Rushdie groupies that they’ve behaved so very badly that their boys are out of the game this year.
Here’s the list of 18 (go, Stanislaw!):

Margaret Atwood
Saul Bellow
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gunter Grass
Ismail Kadare
Milan Kundera
Stanislaw Lem
Doris Lessing
Ian McEwan
Naguib Mahfouz
Tomas Eloy Martinez
Kenzaburo Oe
Cynthia Ozick
Philip Roth
Muriel Spark
Antonio Tabucchi
John Updike
A.B. Yehoshua

Only four American authors on the list. Blasphemy, but could James Wood have been wrong?
And the People’s Choice section was gleefully taken over by national partisans. Eva Ras was endorsed enthusiastically by many fans in Serbia and Montenegro, so she got 90 (gasp!) votes to Ishiguro’s five, Rowling’s two and William Boyd’s one. The Israelis launched a fierce counterattack on behalf of Sami Michael but were, at last count, still trailing at 52. The desis never got into the game, a shame considering how good we are at rigging online polls for film actors, Amitabh Bacchan always wins.

The Babu’s favourite nomination in the People’s Choice section?
“As far as Man Booker men go – I can honestly think of no man\\\’s man (know what I mean? Nudge, nudge, nods as good as w*nk) better equiped in the pen department than the wizard of words – John Self. God love him! (Well, some one has to, right?)”
Horatio Neilsen, Armenia


  1. Novelists like to think of themselves as independant. But has the influx of cash from super-lit prizes started to skew the kind of novels that are being written? Perhaps it’s been happening for years. And what’s going to be next? The Mac-Fiction award? The Nike Peace Prize? Of course, if I ever get nominated for anything – then you can take all the above comment as ironic.

  2. There’s something worrying about that list.They’re all so…I don’t know…”worthy.”Is this prize for lifetime achievement, or is it a prize for the best book published in a given year?Or is this just a clever marketing approach to send the message that only “the best” (as opposed to the best) would do? Only “writers of stature invited.” (read: serious, established, safe).The IMPAC seems to know how to do these things right; something doesn’t feel quite kosher with this Blobel.elck

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