Hermione Lee last night accepted the Man Booker International Prize on behalf of Philip Roth, its fourth honoree and first American.
The award was announced last month, its prominence as an international news story boosted by Carmen Callil’s withdrawal from the jury in protest against the decision to honour Roth. "He goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book," she complained. "It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe."
Lee, who in 1982 published a critical study of Roth, is the dedicatee of Roth’s latest novel, Nemesis, described him as “the great literary adventurer, performer, and self-transformer of this and the last century. He has been one of the giants of American fiction for over fifty years, with a following across the world, and the award of the International Man Booker for his life’s work is a welcome recognition of his audacity, energy, imaginative courage, comic bravura and historical seriousness.”
In a piece to camera, Roth thanked Man Booker for “this esteemed award” and read “a few pages from my 2010 book Nemesis”, pages chosen because “coming where they do, they are the pages I like best. They constitute the last pages of the last work of fiction I’ve published, the end of the line after 31 books.”
Meanwhile, Book Brunch has learned that the launch of an American Man Booker is believed now to be under serious discussion between executives at the Man Group and the Trustees of Man Booker Prize. The Man Group's commitment to both literacy and literature has been strengthened by the arrival in the U.K. of Emmanuel Roman , Co-Chief Executive Officer of GLG Partners, the New York Stock Exchange-listed hedge fund, which was acquired by the Man Group in May last year for $1.6bn.
Roman is also now the number two in the Man hierarchy, based in London, and a known enthusiast for all things book-related. Among his personal guests last night was Malcolm Gladwell.
Over the years, there has been talk, and occasionally pressure, to include American authors in the Man Booker remit, but one clear argument for not doing so is that it would make judging the Prize unwieldy, probably doubling the number of entries each member of the jury was required to read.
However, with the increasing global profile of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction - to which Peter Clarke, CEO, said the Man Group was poised to sign up for a further 10 years - and its derivatives, a US prize would seem a viable move. The Man Booker Prize has long been widely reported in the US media, and there can be few of its winners who don't have a profile there. Now, with the first American, Philip Roth, announced as the winner of the fourth Man Booker International Prize, its profile is likely to be enhanced.
GLG and Man have very similar profiles in their respective home countries, and when the merger was reported a year ago, the company had $63bn in assets under its management. To the end of 31 December 2009, GLG's profits totalled $81m and the Man Group said it had already identified $50m in potential savings in the year ending 2011. So there would appear to be little question that a new prize would be affordable.After the events of 2008-09, financial companies the world over are keen to associate themselves with "worthy endeavours" that demonstrate they are more than mere money men.