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

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
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.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral