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Explained: The Booker Prize, one of the most coveted literary awards in the world

The Booker Prize is one of the best-known literary awards for fiction writing in English, including both novels and collections of short stories. It was first awarded in 1969.

Written by Rishika Singh , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: May 27, 2022 7:38:35 pm
Author Geetanjali Shree poses with the 2022 International Booker Prize award for her novel 'Tomb of Sand' in London, Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP/PTI)

Author Geetanjali Shree’s translated Hindi novel, Tomb of Sand, became the first Indian language book to win the International Booker Prize Friday.

The 2018 novel titled ‘Ret Samadhi’ was translated by Daisy Rockwell and published as ‘Tomb of Sand’ in 2021.

The prize is one of two literary awards given out annually by the Booker Prize Foundation, a charity whose stated aim is to “promote the art and value of literature for the public benefit”.

On the foundation’s website, it states that the awards together “honour fiction on a global basis…whether that work was originally written in English (the Booker Prize) or translated into English (the International Booker Prize).”

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What is the Booker Prize?

The Booker Prize is one of the best-known literary awards for fiction writing in English, including both novels and collections of short stories. It was first awarded in 1969.

Every year a panel of judges decides the best work of the year, with the criteria being that it must be written in English and published in the UK and Ireland. This panel of judges is picked from among eminent cultural historians, writers, professors, and novelists, and others from related fields. The panel this year had five judges.

For the Booker Prize, the winner receives £50,000. The longlist, released prior, has about 12 selections on it. Also called The ‘Booker Dozen’, the longlist this year will be announced in July, and later the shortlist of six books will be declared in September. The winner will be announced in November 2022.

What about the International Booker Prize?

The International Booker Prize began in 2005. A biennial prize initially, it was then awarded for a body of work available in English, including translations, with Alice Munro, Lydia Davis and Philip Roth becoming some of the early winners. In 2015, the rules of the International prize changed to make it an annual affair. The new rules stipulated that it will be awarded annually for a single book, written in another language and translated into English. The £50,000 prize money is divided equally between the author and translator each year.

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Why is it called the ‘Booker’?

The Booker Prize, from 1969 to 2001, was named simply after the Booker Group Limited – a British food wholesale operator that was its initial sponsor. The Man Group, an investment management firm based in the UK, began to sponsor the prize in 2002 and it thus came to be known as The Man Booker Prize. The Man Group ended their sponsorship in 2019. Crankstart, an American charitable foundation, has been the sponsor after that. The prize name has changed back to the ‘Booker’ since then.

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Who have been some prominent winners?

Prominent winners of the coveted prize include Margaret Atwood (‘The Testaments’), Yann Martel (‘Life of Pi’), and Julian Barnes (‘The Sense of an Ending’). Many Indian-origin writers have won the Booker in the past, such as Arundhati Roy (‘The God of Small Things’), Salman Rushdie (‘Midnight’s Children’), Kiran Desai (‘The Inheritance of Loss’), and Aravind Adiga (‘The White Tiger’). Shree is the first Indian to win the International prize.

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First published on: 27-05-2022 at 07:37:43 pm
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