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The name of British tennis star Emma Raducanu – who leapt to fame by winning the US Open earlier this month – was cited by British literary agent Caroline Michel of PFD when she commented on the fact that there is only one British writer – the British-Somali Nadifa Mohamed – on the Booker shortlist.
“America is rich in literary awards not open to writers outside the US and we have few that can throw such a transformative spotlight on a writer and their work,” she said. “We need to encourage the Emma Raducanus of the literary world with life-changing awards too and the only one of those we arguably have is the Booker, on which I really wholeheartedly believe we should keep every precious place on the longlist and shortlist there to support the great creativity that there is in Britain and the Commonwealth.”
The debate over the lack of British representation on the Booker Prize shortlist has become an annual event ever since the rule change in 2014 which opened the prize up to American writers. Under ‘eligibility’ the rules state: ‘Any work of fiction in print or electronic format, written originally in English and published in the UK or Ireland by an imprint formally established in the UK or Ireland is eligible. The imprint must publish a list of at least two works of high quality long-form fiction by different authors each year.
Michel added: “I love prizes, I love the Booker Prize. Look how it changes a writer’s career, look at the difference it makes to their sales, profile, international standing, look at the wonder that is Bernardine Evaristo now compared to before her win. [Evaristo shared the Booker Prize last year with Margaret Atwood]. So why when we need to support, grow, and encourage writers in the UK and Commonwealth did they open this prize to American writers?”