Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cheated out of being shortlisted

Imagine you have worked hard for several years to produce a collection of short stories and it has been nominated for a top prize. You are hoping to make the shortlist and would welcome the accompanying perks: publicity in newspapers, increased sales, prestige of calling yourself a shortlisted author and having your name attached to the historic record of the prize. But then you read this:

The judges for the Frank O'Connor award have dispensed with the ritual of issuing a shortlist, announcing today that Jhumpa Lahiri has won the world's richest honour for a short story collection. The jurors decided that Unaccustomed Earth was so plainly the best book that they would jump straight from longlist to winner, and have awarded Lahiri the €35,000 (£27,000) prize. ...

"With a unanimous winner at this early stage we decided it would be a sham to compose a shortlist and put five other writers through unnecessary stress and suspense," explained the award's director, Pat Cotter. [Link]
I don't know about you, but I would feel cheated out of a potential recognition that doesn't come around very often. Especially since some of the nominated books this year may actually be better than the winning book from another year, considering that the quality varies from year to year.

2 comments:

Tim Jones said...

As one of the longlisted authors, I accept the judges' decision - that's their right - but as I've said elsewhere, I would have been prepared to put myself through the stress and strain of being on the shortlist, had my collection "Transported" been chosen.

The judges' concern for the health of the longlistees is praiseworthy, however!

Malathi said...

Tim, I think you are too nice.

I am in clinical/public health research. The health system or the health research world would never shut down just because somebody found one major vaccine or a way to put a stop to the aging process. The idea is that irrespective of a major discovery in one direction, work (support, encouragement) needs to be carried out in other disease-specific areas. Perhaps my choice of example is not a perfect analogy, but the judges' decision has inadvertently reemphasized the suspicion that luck and timing (apart from other suspected factors such as politics, author popularity, etc) play in all these literary competitions and book awards for both the winner and the non-winners. And it should not happen that way. There is a system in place for a reason.