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UK's new Folio book prize has American accent

  • Article by: JILL LAWLESS
  • Associated Press
  • February 10, 2014 - 2:40 PM

LONDON — A new literary prize created to find the best book published in Britain has a strong North American accent.

The 40,000 pound ($66,000) Folio Prize is open to any work of fiction published in the United Kingdom in 2013.

The eight finalists, announced Monday, include five books by U.S. writers: "Schroder" by Amity Gaige; "Benediction" by Kent Haruf; "The Flamethrowers" by Rachel Kushner; "A Naked Singularity" by Sergio De La Pava; and "Tenth of December" by George Saunders.

There is also Canadian Anne Carson's "Red Doc" and two books by Britain-based writers — Jane Gardam's "Last Friends," and Eimear McBride's "A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing."

British poet Lavinia Greenlaw, who is chairing the judging panel, said the American emphasis was a coincidence.

"We forgot about the authors and focused on the books," she said.

There are few big-name authors on a list that ranges from debut novelist De La Pava — a public defender in New York — to 85-year-old Gardam, and includes Saunders' volume of short stories and Carson's long-form poem.

Greenlaw said that what the books had in common was risk-taking authors "doing things that should fail and pulling them off."

The contest is in its first year and hopes to rival the Booker Prize as the English-speaking world's most prestigious literary award. But it has been criticized by some in the U.K. literary world who feel British authors will be overlooked.

Those concerns have grown since the Booker, previously confined to British, Irish and Commonwealth writers, announced that it will be open to all nationalities starting this year.

But Folio Prize founder Andrew Kidd said: "It seemed perverse that we would have launched a prize in 2013 which was other than borderless, in an increasingly borderless world."

The winner will be announced March 10 in London.

© 2014 Star Tribune