Booker judge quits over prize for 'suffocating' Philip Roth

The Man Booker International Prize, which recognises an author's overall contribution to literature, is one of novel-writing's most prestigious prizes.

So when Philip Roth was awarded the coveted accolade yesterday, one would have thought the decision would be accompanied by the usual torrent of gushing tributes to his unassailable genius.

But an undignified spat has since broken out among the £60,000 award's three judges. Yesterday, publisher Carmen Callil made the bizarre step of "withdrawing" from the award's jury in protest at the decision, saying she "didn't rate [Roth] as a writer", despite having participated in the judging process until its final moments.

"He goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book," she said. "It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe."

The jury's chair, book dealer and author Rick Gekoski, has hit back, branding Callil's public outburst "disrespectful". He told The Independent: "I regret very much what she has done. I think it is disrespectful to Philip Roth, as he is the story, Carmen is not the story." The only member of the jury to remain silent was novelist Justin Cartwright.

The award, whose previous victors include Ismail Kadaré, Chinua Achebe and Alice Munro, was announced in a ceremony in Sydney yesterday. Roth, whose novels include 1969 Portnoy's Complaint, documenting a man's diatribe during an analysis session, and 2000's The Human Stain, the story of a mixed-race man passing himself off as Jewish, said it was a "great honour".

Roth said: "One of the particular pleasures I've had as a writer is to have my work read internationally despite all the heartaches of translation that that entails. I hope the prize will bring me to the attention of readers around the world who are not familiar with my work."

Before the ink on Roth's cheque even had a chance to dry, Callil, who was the only member of the jury not to vote for him, went public with her disapproval. "I made it clear I wouldn't have put him on the long list, so I was amazed when he stayed there," she said. "He was the only one I didn't admire – all the others were fine."

Callil is founder of feminist publishing house Virago, and author of Bad Faith, a history of Vichy France. The shortlist also featured Philip Pullman, Anne Tyler and Marilynne Robinson.

Gekoski confirmed there had been a "long and difficult" meeting to decide upon the winner. "In the end it was decided that two of us wanted Philip to win and one of us didn't," he said. "We decided the majority would prevail. Justin and I felt that he was genuinely a good writer but Carmen didn't. Disagreement is common when deciding upon literary prizes. Going public on it isn't. We regret the process is now out in the open."

John le Carré was shortlisted but withdrew from the running in March. "I am enormously flattered to be named as a finalist of the 2011 Man Booker International Prize," he said in a statement. "However, I do not compete for literary prizes and have therefore asked for my name to be withdrawn."

Roth will pick up his award at a dinner in London on 28 June.

Philip Roth: For and against

"I'll tell you, those three recent books by Philip Roth just knocked me on my ass. To be in his sixties making work that is so strong, so full of revelations about love and emotional pain, that's the way to live your artistic life."

Bruce Springsteen, singer

"He is without doubt the greatest novelist writing in English today. Anyone, anywhere, interested in the construction of a sentence would have to admire and be enthralled."

Linda Grant, author and journalist

"All of his novels demonstrate an extraordinary, lively and witty prose, crammed with ironies and changes of perspective... There is no question, Philip Roth is one of the great writers of our era".

Justin Cartwright, novelist

"In 'Portnoy' the reader could believe that the women are monstrous because Portnoy experiences them as monstrous. In all the books that followed over the next 30 years, the women are monstrous because for Philip Roth women are monstrous."

Vivian Gornick, US essayist

"He presents his cast with touches of local colour ranging from appetising Jewish delicatessen to hilariously mimicked dialogue... [It] serves to make his caricatures consequently more vicious."

Marie Syrkin, Zionist author

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album