Sunday, May 22, 2016

How to turn down a prestigious literary prize – a winner’s guide to etiquette

Following Joseph Andras’s surprise decision to turn down the Goncourt first novel prize, it’s time to weight up the pros and cons of rejecting a literary award

John Le Carre

Prize refusenik John Le Carré. Photograph: Action Press/Rex Features
A stance Andras shares with John le Carré, who asked (unsuccessfully) to be removed from the 2011 Man Booker international prize shortlist because “I do not compete for literary prizes”. A variant is exiting a specific competition made messy by mud-slinging, as with Derek Walcott’s withdrawal from the 2009 Oxford poetry professorship race after personal smears, Vintil Horia’s refusal of the 1960 main Goncourt prize (he had been accused of past membership of Romania’s far-right Iron Guard), and last year’s hoo-ha at the Hugo awards for SF and fantasy, when two novel prize nominees pulled out.
Pro: honourably self-sacrificial, especially for a debut author such as Andras who presumably could do with the €3,800 cheque.
Con: can appear holier-than-thou – many others dislike the “posh bingo” of prizes yet enter nonetheless – and look like “grandstanding”.

No comments: