It only took a week for the first British author to boycott the expanded eligibility of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Lady Antonia Fraser has quit an informal advisory board for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. "I have resigned from the committee since I was not warned about this when I was asked to join in August,” she told the London Evening Standard, referencing the competition's recent eligibility expansion to writers outside the 54-nation British Commonwealth .
It's unfortunate for the Booker judges to lose her. Fraser was a Booker judge in 1970 and 1971 and is a well regarded author of histories and detective fiction. Of course, she's not the only Brit upset by the rule change. When word got out that the prize would be opened up, several British authors, editors and journalists expressed concern. Fraser is just the first person to take an action in protest.
Then again, the Man Booker International Prize was already open to international authors, though the biannual award celebrates an author's career and body of work, not a specific novel. An American author, Lydia Davis, won the prize this year. Meanwhile, the Booker Prize for Fiction longlist probably won't be announced until July, 10 months from now.
And at least on official thinks this might just be a misunderstanding. Fiammetta Rocco, The Economist's literary editor and administrator of the Man Booker International Prize, told The Standard: "I haven’t heard from Lady Antonia about her fears but she was invited only recently to join our e-Council. It’s not yet fully up and running and we’ve always had American authors."
Maybe. Or maybe this is the beginning of British authors defending their prize against American interlopers. Of course we'll know for sure next summer, when the 2014 longlist is announced.