The Lost Man Booker Prize : Shirley Hazzard, Mary Renault, H.E.Bates, Melvyn Bragg

by |February 4, 2010

A quick look at the list of Man Booker Prize Winners is enough to convince anyone that it is the premier literary award.

Peter Carey, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel, William Golding, Arundhati Roy to name but a few winners…

And yet we can always come up with the names of authors who are not listed and we believe should be.

Well, recently the Man Booker has made a startling admission – they missed a year.

Our favourite author may still have a chance to win!

Here’s what they had to say:

‘In 1971, just two years after it began, the Booker Prize ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became, as it is today, a prize for the best novel in the year of publication. At the same time, the date on which the award was given moved from April to November. As a result of these changes, there was whole year’s gap when a wealth of fiction, published in 1970, fell through the net. These books were simply never considered for the prize.’

They go on to offer us a long-list of eligible titles:

Quite a list, really. Many great names, but some which would not, I think, be included on a proper list today.

Shall we put on our cynic’s spectacles? Let’s!

We can begin shortening the list by removing those who may be considered too successful (ie: popular) for the Booker judges – Ruth Rendell, Reginald Hill, Len Deighton and Patrick O’Brian… Easily done.

Now we may look again… Oh no, there are a few names which won’t be instantly recognisable to contemporary intellectuals (ie: 15 year old TV journalists). They must go. Bye, Bye, Nina Bawden, H.E. Bates, Christy Brown, Elaine Feinstein, Brian Aldiss, Francis King, Margaret Laurence, Shiva Naipaul and Mary Renault.

Oh, and some have already won the Man Booker or other prestigious awards – that will not do… Ciao, Patrick White, J.G.Farrell, Muriel Spark and Iris Murdoch (dead people never come to award ceremonies anyway).

We can omit Melvyn Bragg because, well… you know… he’s been on the telly. Susan Hill can be eliminated, she isn’t consistently literary. And Joe Orton would be too obvious.

We are left with Shirley Hazzard and David Lodge. What a final!

In conclusion, having thought long and hard, I think Patrick O’Brian should get it.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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