Why aren’t Australian books being nominated for the Booker Prize?

19 October 2022

It’s been six years since the work of an Australian author was nominated for the Booker Prize. Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan was the last recipient in 2014, with his book The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Since then only South African born Australian author JM Coetzee has made the cut, being named on the longlist for the 2016 Prize with The Schooldays of Jesus.

But 2014 was also the year changes were made to the Prize’s eligibility requirements, allowing any English language title to be nominated, essentially opening up the award to American writers. Since then it seems Australian books have struggled to gain traction.

The Booker was once confined to authors from the Commonwealth, Ireland and Zimbabwe — an empire rule that looked increasingly silly, leading to a change in 2014 to allow all novels written in English, so long as they were published by UK and Irish publishing houses. Much fuss was made about the decision to let Americans in (including by Carey), but it is undeniable that since then, they have made up roughly a quarter of every longlist and won three times; at this year’s prize, which was won by Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka on Monday, six of the 13 nominees were American. These authors are most often living, working and published in the US — seemingly an easier path into the UK than the long road from Australia.

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