Critical authority: The Booker Prize and literary merit

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The Booker Prize was set up in 1969 to identify and reward the ‘best novel of the year’. It is now plausibly regarded (not least by itself) as the premier literary prize of its kind in the world. Its judgements are universally taken as sound, unbiased and authoritative. Papal, almost. It takes its place alongside other ‘certification of highest quality’ prizes: the Costa (formerly the Whitbread), the Pulitzer, the Goncourt, the Orange, the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, the Man Booker International Prize, the Nobel Prize (the last three are for literary careers more than individual works). How obediently does the reading public accept the decisions these authoritative prizes make on its behalf?

Are prizes reliable judges of literary worth? ….” (bold emphasis in original, p.80)

Ref: John Sutherland (2010) 50 Literature ideas you really need to know. Bloomsbury: London

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