When the Man Group, the new corporate sponsor of the Booker Prize – Britain’s top literary award – suggested that Americans should be allowed to compete, it sparked an uproar of Revolutionary War–like proportions. Some Brits, including current Booker head judge Lisa Jardine, said authors like Philip Roth would trounce their transatlantic cousins. British writers fired back that she’s full of Marmite. In the interest of fairness, we asked literati (of various nationalities): Should the Pulitzer Prize be opened up to British competition?
“My first view was ‘Why not?’ But the alternative ‘Why bother?’ position is almost equally persuasive. They’re just prizes, you know. The world will not only not change – it will barely notice.”
“Prizes are a foolishness, but they do have rules. The Pulitzer is an American prize, principally for journalists. I have no problem with it remaining that. The Booker is already open to writers from many countries. I don’t see why the only novels written in English not eligible are those written by Americans.”
“I see no reason to make an Olympics game out of these prizes. But British fears of American literary might are pretty silly. We’re the stronger culture for the time being, and I guess there is a kind of American energy and ambition – an existential cosmic aspiration – that British writers haven’t shown. But they’re much better at novels with social interaction, much better at portraying women. It’s the difference between Middlemarch and Moby-Dick.”
“The British resent us – they’d still find a reason to fume if we let them into the Pulitzer. It would be even worse if we suggested we be included in the Prix Goncourt. The French hate us even more than the Brits do.”
“Nothing could save the Pulitzer in my view. It has, with very rare exceptions, been awarded to bad novelists and bad poets. As far as I’m concerned, they can open it to the Pakistanis.”