Man Booker International Prize 2009 Nominees Announced; Jay McInerney, Jane Smiley Exchange Words


Last week brought the announcement of the Man Booker International Prize 2009 Judges’ List, the official shortlist for the sixty thousand pound, every-other-year prize for “one writer’s continued creativity, development and overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.” By way of making an occasion of it, the judges’ panel–Jane Smiley, Andrey Kurkov, and Amit Chaudhuri–convened at the New York Public Library, along with a robotically well-coiffed Tina Brown and a generous measure of champagne, in order to make the announcement.

The nominees:

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)

It was late afternoon on a Wednesday and it quickly became clear that no one quite knew why we had all assembled. Smiley, in particular, seemed determined to tamp down any hint of controversy: “You have to get over this idea, Tina, that there was an argument here,” she said when Brown tried–in vain–to discover whether there were any festering wounds from the exhaustive, 250 novels-deep deliberative process. The judges, alas, maintained a united front.

Brown gamely tried again: “Is this an underdog’s list?” she asked, pointing out the notable Roth/McEwan/Rushdie absence. Writers are writers, Smiley shot back, no matter “how well they’re known in London or New York.” Jay McInerney, sensing an insult, asked in the subsequent Q+A session whether one was in fact intended: “Are you trying to put me on the spot?” asked Smiley, before returning the favor. “How do you feel about Frederick Manfred?” she asked, referring to one obscure native son of the Midwest, then followed up: “Haven’t heard of him, have you?”

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