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Why the Booker Prize matters (and not just to winners like me)

It may be a reward for fiction, writes Ben Okri, who won it in 1991 for his novel ‘The Famished Road’ – but it has the power to shape the world of reality

Thursday 23 November 2023 17:48 GMT
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<p>Queen Camilla, patron of the Booker Prize, speaks to guests during a Clarence House reception </p>

Queen Camilla, patron of the Booker Prize, speaks to guests during a Clarence House reception

Nobody who is shortlisted for the Booker Prize really loses. One of the most loved and prestigious prizes in the world, it has a sort of magic to it. And so when you come this far and make it onto the shortlist, there is really only winning. From here on, good stuff happens. The rest is up to you.

Twice every year – once in the middle, and once towards the end of the year – the Booker puts the world in a state to receive: first, 12 books on a longlist, then six on a shortlist, then one winning work of fiction. Every year, this ritual is repeated; regardless of what is going on in the world. And it is a ritual. A simple ritual in which a fairytale is enacted and the world is given a gift.

For some years, we have been fortunate to have as our patron a Queen who reads, who loves reading, and who also champions the right of writers to write freely and unfettered.

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