Entertainment Books Peter Carey slams Booker prize for US authors

Peter Carey slams Booker prize for US authors

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Great Australian novelist Peter Carey has criticised the Man Booker Foundation’s decision to allow US authors to enter the prestigious British literary Booker prize.  

Carey, twice the Booker prize winner for 1988’s Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang in 2001, told The Guardian that inviting American authors into the “Commonwealth” award was “unimaginable”.

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“Let me answer this in a slightly perverse sort of a way. I find it unimaginable that the Pulitzer or the National Book award people in the United States would ever open their prizes to Brits and Australians. They wouldn’t,” Carey says.

“There was and there is a real Commonwealth culture. It’s different. America doesn’t really feel to be a part of that.”

Two US writers have been shortlisted for the 2014 prize, which will be announced this week, Jane Austen Book Club writer Karen Joy Fowler for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and Joshua Ferris’s novel To Rise Again At a Decent Hour. 

Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan has been nominated for his novel The Narrow Road To The Deep North. Photo: Getty

Carey said that nominated Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan should take out the award.

“Richard Flanagan clearly has to win. He’s our man. He’s a serious guy who can really, really write. I’ve got my fingers crossed for Richard,” he told The Guardian.

Flanagan told AAP that he would be honoured to win the prize but he’s not getting his hopes up ahead of the award ceremony.

The Duchess of Cornwall will present the STG50,000 ($A90,000) Booker for the second year running on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning AEDT) in London.

Flanagan’s novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North is one of six short-listed works of fiction in the hunt, that also includes British comic novellist, and former Booker prize winner Howard Jacobson’s J, and favourite, The Lives Of Others by Neel Mukherjee.

Flanagan, who has never won the prestigious British literary award, said he was enjoying the ride but knew “not take it too seriously”.

“Writing is such a hard and humbling task,” the 53-year-old said on the eve of the ceremony.

“If you’ve been doing it for a time you really come to understand that you should not expect too much.”

Flanagan hasn’t had time to read the other short-listed novels because he’s been on the road promoting The Narrow Road.

Richard-Flanagan-Narrow-RoadBut he’s read other works by the authors.

“If I were not to win on Tuesday night there’s not one there I wouldn’t feel delighted for also,” he said.

The Narrow Road is inspired by the story of Australian prisoners of war forced to work on the Burma Railway during WWII.

It also touches on Australia’s involvement in the Syria campaign of 1941.

The book leaves the reader pondering how the past and present intertwine.

“The more you trust to a story the more the story will open up to what the moment is,” Flanagan said.

“All novels are utterly contemporary and when they succeed do speak to what is going on (today).

“It is interesting with this book that people have spoken about how it does seem to be about this darkness that they feel coming upon them.”

But, the writer insists, at its heart The Narrow Road is a love story.

“People look to these horrific events (but) I think it’s wrong to take your compass too much from them.

“You have to take your compass from the people around you.

“The everyday things that are too easily dismissed as everyday – the small acts of kindness and goodness.”

Flanagan believes the world progresses to a better place because of them and that “love is the greatest expression of hope”.

Previous Australian winners of the Booker are Thomas Keneally (1982), Peter Carey (1988 and 2001) and DBC Pierre (2003).


Howard Jacobson – J

Joshua Ferris – To Rise Again At a Decent Hour

Richard Flanagan – The Narrow Road To The Deep North.

Karen Joy Fowler – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Neel Mukherjee – The Lives Of Others

Ali Smith – How to be Both

– With AAP


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