Following last month’s announcement that author and Fellow in English Literature at Cambridge University Robert Macfarlane would chair the judging panel of the 2013 Man Booker Prize – an announcement made with an angry sideways glare and a rueful shake of the head at Stella Rimington no doubt – the Prize has revealed who will be joining Macfarlane in his punishing, fourteen books a month prestige-a-thon over the coming weeks: filling out the panel will be Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Natalie Haynes, Martha Kearney and Stuart Kelly.
Kearney is perhaps the best-known of the panellists, including Macfarlane himself, and is certainly the most regularly visible to the public at large, having become one of the faces of cultual broadcasting on the BBC through her work hosting The Review Show on BBC Two, The World at One on Radio Four and her nine years on Woman‘s Hour, also on Radio Four, ending in 2007.
Viewers of The Review Show may also recognise Haynes from her appearances as a guest on the programme, or, if they’re particularly spoddy about this kind of thing, from her place on the judging panel from this year’s Orange Prize for Fiction (and if anyone is interested in building a conspiracy theory out of this, you might want to start with Kearney having chaired the Orange judging panel in 2005 and work out from there). More pertinently in terms of her qualifications to sit on any judging panel, Haynes is a comedian and essayist on comedy and the ancient world, having contributed to various BBC radio panel shows, written and presented radio documentaries on comedic writers from Juvenal to Dorothy Parker and written the non-fiction book The Ancient Guide to Modern Life.
Kelly, meanwhile, is the former book editor of the broadsheet Scotland on Sunday. He still contributes reviews and features to The Scotsman and The Guardian, amongst others, and is the author of the non-fiction titles The Book of Lost Books – about unfinished or otherwise incomplete publications – and Scott-Land, an assessment of Walter Scott’s impact on the heritage of Scotland.
Finally, Douglas-Fairhurst is a Tutorial Fellow in English Literature at Oxford. His main focus is nineteenth-century literature, with his most recent book Becoming Dickens, and he has also acted as a historical consultant to the BBC adaptations of Jane Eyre, Emma and Great Expectations.
The judges have until July to produce a longlist of about a dozen titles from the current 140 submissions. The shortlist is announced in September, and the prize awarded in October.