Julian Barnes says changes to Man Booker prize will harm British authors

Former winner says opening up the prize to American writers is 'generally a bad idea'

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The Independent Online

Former Man Booker Prize winner Julian Barnes has voiced concerns that the eligibility of American writers in Britain's most prestigious literary award will have harmful consequences for British writers.

Speaking to Sarah Walker on BBC Radio 3’s Essential Classics, he said he fears “British writers will win it much less often”.

Barnes emphasised that so far the Booker has provided an important platform for young and emerging writers, a role he expects will also be put in danger by the proposed changes to the prize.  

He admitted to being surprised by the decision to open up the Prize to American authors, stating he had never heard anyone in the publishing world talk in favour of the move.

Speculating on the reasons behind the change in rules, he said: “Maybe it’s just an example of capitalist expansionism. Once you’ve got one market sewn up, you want to go after another.”

Backing up his view that the changes would harm British writers' chances of winning, Barnes discussed the Orange Prize (now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction), which has been dominated by American winners for the past five years.

Julian Barnes won the Man Booker himself in 2011 for his novel The Sense of an Ending.

“It’s the big one in the fiction reading and writing world," he said. "It made a huge difference in terms of sales, and that means readers."