Way back in October of 2011, we posted news of The Literature Prize, a potential rival to the Booker whose creation was implicitly a reaction to that year’s infamously ‘readable’ Booker shortlist. Spokesperson Andrew Kidd, the literary agent, suggested at the time that the prize could be up and running as soon as 2012. That estimate proved to be a little overly optimistic, as evidenced by the prize’s still not having happened (just so we’re all on the same page, it’s 2013 now), but just when everyone had forgotten it had ever been mooted, the prize has resurfaced with a new name, a sponsor and a date for its inaugural ceremony: As of March 2014, the Booker will be joined on the literary prize circuit by the Folio Prize, unexepectedly taking its title – and sponsorship – from The Folio Society.
The Prize describes itself as ‘the first major English language book prize open to writers from around the world. Its aim is simple: to celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible.‘ Nominees are drawn from the suggestions of The Folio Prize Academy, an august body of writers and critics whose number includes Margaret Atwood, John Banville, A.S. Byatt, Peter Carey, Michael Chabon, J.M. Coetzee, Junot Diaz, Bret Easton Ellis, Sebastian Faulks, Jackie Kay, A.L. Kennedy, Ian McEwan, China Miéville, David Mitchell, Michael Ondaatje, Philip Pullman, Salman Rushdie, Alice Sebold, Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibin and Jeanette Winterson, to name but a few.
Five judges per year are also drawn from the Academy’s ranks, who then, from eighty nominees, draw up a shortlist of eight titles, with the winner announced at the prizegiving ceremony in March and awarded a cheque for £40,000.
Seemingly seeking to quash a potential rivalry with the Booker, critic for the Independent and member of the Folio Prize Academy Anthony Quinn instead compared the co-existence of the prizes to that of the Premiership and the FA Cup, saying that if the Booker is the Cup, then ‘why isn’t there room for The Premiership?’ His paper helpfully described this as ‘using a football metaphor‘.