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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Inaugural Folio Prize

Next weekend sees the first “Folio Prize” being presented. It is open to all works of fiction written in English and published in the UK in the previous calendar year. Media speculation has said the award was “set up to challenge the Man Booker Prize over concerns it was dumbing down”. As mentioned before on this blog the Booker made the controversial decision to open up the award to authors beyond the Commonwealth, a decision I am not at all happy with.

This coming weekend we also see the long list for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize being announced for works published in the UK in translation. So we now have a clash – in translation on the Saturday and then in English on the Monday.

The Folio Prize is sponsored by the Folio Society and offers a 40,000 pound prize to the winning writer. Each year, five members of the Folio Prize Academy will be invited to judge, they will consider 80 books, 60 which have been nominated by the Academy and a further 20 selected from works nominated by publishers. The Folio Prize website blatantly has a go at dumbing down by having their criterion as:

The sole criterion for judgment will be excellence: to identify works of fiction in which the story being told and the subjects being explored achieve their most perfect and thrilling expression.

The shortlist was announced a few weeks ago – sorry I missed the announcement, probably too highbrow for me. I must admit I haven’t read a single nominee on the shortlist, however with five of the eight nominees being American it was probably that single fact that led me away from the announcement.

The shortlist is as follows:

Red Doc by Anne Carson (Random House/Jonathan Cape)
Schroder by Amity Gaige (Faber & Faber)
Last Friends by Jane Gardam (Little, Brown)
Benediction by Kent Haruf (Picador)
The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner (Random House/Harvill Secker)
A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Galley Beggar Press)
A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava (Maclehose Editions)
Tenth of December by George Saunders (Bloomsbury)

I’ll announce the winner here sometime next week and may get to these novels, however purposely pitching your award at “excellence”, and “the story being told and the subjects being explored achieve their most perfect and thrilling expression” comes across as a tad snobbish for my liking, winner will probably be unreadable. There I go pre-judging again. I can tell you though the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize reading will not be curtailed by this new prize.

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