First bestowed on Albanian writer Ismail Kadare in 2005, Man Booker International Prize is awarded every two years to recognize a living author’s achievement in fiction and literary excellence.
A judging panel led by Rick Gekoski honored Roth in a news conference at the Sydney Opera House during the Sydney Writers’ Festival in Australia, the contest organizers said in an e- mailed statement.
“For more than 50 years Philip Roth’s books have stimulated, provoked and amused an enormous, and still expanding, audience,” Gekoski said in the release. “His imagination has not only recast our idea of Jewish identity, it has also reanimated fiction, and not just American fiction, generally.”
One of the three judges, Australian author Carmen Callil, later voiced criticism of the decision, telling the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper that Roth “goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book.” The founder of London feminist publisher Virago Press, Callil said she withdrew from the panel after telling fellow juror and novelist Justin Cartwright that she thought “I should give in,” the Guardian reported.
Born in 1933, Roth scooped up the National Book Award for Fiction with his first published work, “Goodbye, Columbus.” He went on to score bestselling notoriety in 1969 with “Portnoy’s Complaint.” In 1979, he introduced his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, in “The Ghost Writer,” the first in a series of autobiographical novels. He won the Pulitzer in 1998 for “American Pastoral.”
Roth was selected from a list of prominent authors who included John le Carre, Philip Pullman and Marilynne Robinson. The other finalists were Juan Goytisolo of Spain; James Kelman of Scotland; Amin Maalouf of Lebanon; David Malouf of Australia; Dacia Maraini of Italy; Rohinton Mistry, an Indian-born Canadian author; Su Tong and Wang Anyi of China; and Anne Tyler of the U.S.
Callil’s comments about Roth marked the second controversy in the contest since the finalists were announced in March. At the time, le Carre asked to be removed from the competition, saying he doesn’t compete for literary awards. Gekoski, the judging panel chairman, said his name would remain on the list.
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