A couple of bit of literary prize news filtered down to me last night and this morning.
First up, the longlist for the Man Booker International Prize, which is given once every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. In addition, there is a separate prize for translation and, if applicable, the winner can choose a translator of his or her work into English to receive a prize of £15,000. It is awarded to a writer for a body of work, rather than an individual novel.
The judging panel for the Man Booker International Prize 2009 is: Jane Smiley, writer; Amit Chaudhuri, writer, academic and musician; and writer, film script writer and essayist, Andrey Kurkov.
And the all-important longlist:
Peter Carey (Australia)
Evan S. Connell (USA)
Mahasweta Devi (India)
E.L. Doctorow (USA)
James Kelman (UK)
Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)
Arnošt Lustig (Czechoslovakia)
Alice Munro (Canada)
V.S. Naipaul (Trinidad/India)
Joyce Carol Oates (USA)
Antonio Tabucchi (Italy)
Ngugi Wa Thiong’O (Kenya)
Dubravka Ugresic (Croatia)
Ludmila Ulitskaya (Russia)
There is unsurprisingly a lot here that I’m not familiar with (I’ve only heard of 7 out of 14 authors), but I’m chuffed to see Alice Munro on there. If you haven’t already, go now and read her short story collection Open Secrets.
Speaking of the Prize itself (“highly honorific… a roll-call of the best writers of our time”) and of its benefactors, Heaney felt there was “something more than philanthropy at work… It’s sacramental… there’s an inner grace”. And he was delighted to be able, as part of it, to decide on whom, or on what, the £12,500 Clarissa Luard Award should be bestowed. He chose Poetry Aloud, the annual poetry-speaking competition for post-primary schoolchildren, a collaboration between the National Library of Ireland and Poetry Ireland – an acknowledgment of the importance of poetry learned by heart and spoken aloud and “the seedbed” it provided for future learning and appreciation.
I was listening to Seamus Heaney on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row last night. He was talking about the prize obviously, but Mark Lawson also asked about the fact that he is shortly to turn 70, and what words of wisdom he had to pass down to the younger generations.
“Read,” Seamus Heaney said, “Trust, and be cynical at the same time.”
I think that’s pretty good advice.