The Booker Prize will expand its scope next year as it considers US authors in 2014, after 45 years of recognizing the work of writers from UK, Ireland and Commonwealth countries. I don’t consider literature from the British Commonwealth more high-brow than its American contemporary, but the Booker prize has always been an indicator of literature that focuses on “literariness”. The shortlisted books usually take a fairly impoverished view of literature to measure it by their characters.
The Booker is currently open to novels by British, Irish and Commonwealth authors published in the UK, with each publishing imprint putting forward two titles, plus titles by previously shortlisted authors. For certain writers the requirement to be entered into the Booker is written into their contract with the publisher, and that US agents are likely to be robust in ensuring that this happens. That said, if the Booker is open to US authors it will still create a huge imbalance. UK writers will have more competition for a career-changing prize, whereas US authors will have a new prize.
It’s inevitable that Booker will lose its distinctiveness but I hope the inclusion of US authors will not crowd out new talents.