June 25, 2024

The Backlash to the American Invasion of the Booker Prize

The Man Booker Prize, which had been open to English-language novels from Britain and the Commonwealth, has just gone global, producing anxiety about damage to cultural diversity and fears that the American cultural hyperpower that dominates movies and television will crush the small literary novel.

“It’s rather like a British company being taken over by some worldwide conglomerate,” said Melvyn Bragg, an author and television host in Britain.

The Booker Prize for fiction, begun in 1969, was always something that Britain and its former territories could call their own, seen as a bulwark against the spread of the American novel, that globalized product of the world’s richest market.

The award — with its publicity, its paycheck and its immediate impact on sales — has been an important boost to the careers of Canadians like Michael Ondaatje and Yann Martel, and Indians like Kiran Desai and Aravind Adiga. It has brought attention to novelists previously unknown and unpublished in the United States, and it has been an important encouragement to publishers of quality fiction.

This week, the chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation, Jonathan Taylor, said, “We are abandoning the constraints of geography and national boundaries” to become a truly international prize, as a result of consultations that began in 2011. The change could enhance the Booker’s “prestige and reputation through expansion, rather than by setting up a separate prize” for Americans, he said.

Next year, the prize will be open to any work originally written in English and published in Britain, not just works by citizens of Britain, the Commonwealth, Ireland and Zimbabwe, bringing immediate concerns that American novels will dominate, “simply through an economic superpower exerting its own literary tastes,” the British novelist Philip Hensher, who has been both a Booker finalist and a judge, said in an interview.

More troubling, he said, will be the loss of “new, interesting voices.” American novels are already culturally dominant, he said: “It’s hard to think of American novels that don’t make their way into the larger English world. But I can think of Canadian, Indian, African novels that struggle to find a broader readership.”

Karolina Sutton, a literary agent who works with both American and British authors, said that the winner of the Booker sometimes sees a sales bump of hundreds of thousands of copies, an effect that could multiply if the winner were American.

“I think it’s terrific for American publishers, terrific for American writers, and it’s not bad news for readers,” she said. “It will suddenly become more competitive.”

Criticism of the prize has been a literary sport since its inception, with complaints about the winners, the judges and even the prize dinners. A. L. Kennedy, who was a judge in 1996, famously and ungrammatically said that the winner was determined by “who knows who, who’s sleeping with who, who’s selling drugs to who, who’s married to who, whose turn it is.”

Ms. Kennedy is in favor of the expansion of the Booker, however, noting that other, newer prizes open to any English-language novel published here, like the Folio Prize (£40,000, or about $64,000, which makes its first award next January) and the International Impac Dublin Literary Award (100,000 euros, or about $135,000, and also open to translations) have been “nipping at its heels.” The Man Booker award comes with a prize of £50,000, or about $80,000.

The Booker has also become less literary, some argue, suggesting that since the Man Group, a multinational financial company, took it over in 2002, the renamed Man Booker Prize has become more middlebrow.

Even this year, one of the six finalists, Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Lowland,” has been criticized as an American novel. Born in London, Ms. Lahiri moved to the United States at the age of 2 and generally writes about the experience of exiles living in the United States.

Julie Bosman contributed reporting from New York, and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura from London.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 21, 2013

An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect figure for the monetary award that accompanies the Man Booker Prize. It is £50,000, or about $80,000.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/21/books/the-backlash-to-the-american-invasion-of-the-booker-prize.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Egypt Orders Arrest of Satirist for Skits on Islam and Morsi

The satirist, Bassem Youssef, who hosts a widely watched show modeled on “The Daily Show,” has been the subject of numerous legal complaints filed by Islamist lawyers and citizens who took umbrage at Mr. Youssef’s skewering of Egypt’s political class, including Mr. Morsi, his loyalists and the opposition.

But the arrest warrant seemed to represent a sharp escalation of the campaign against Mr. Youssef, with the public prosecutor appointed by Mr. Morsi lending official credence to the complaints. In the nine months since Mr. Morsi took office, his government has been accused of employing the same harsh measures against dissent as did the previous authoritarian leaders, including prosecuting critics, confiscating newspapers and placing sympathetic journalists in state news media organs.

Last week, the public prosecutor, Talaat Ibrahim, ordered the arrest of five anti-Islamist activists on charges that they had used social media to incite violence against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Shortly after the warrant was announced Saturday, Mr. Youssef confirmed on Twitter that he had been summoned and said he intended to visit the prosecutor’s office on Sunday, the beginning of Egypt’s workweek. “Unless they were so kind as to send a police wagon to pick me up today, and save me the transportation,” he added.

It was not immediately clear which episodes of Mr. Youssef’s program, which is watched by millions of people on television or on the Internet, had prompted the warrant. Al Ahram, the state newspaper, said Saturday that prosecutors had considered the testimony of 28 complainants and had examined four episodes.

One complainant accused Mr. Youssef of denigrating Islam and disturbing security, and demanded that the state take “deterrent measures against him so that others with weak resolve wouldn’t dare to insult Islam.” The unnamed critic also accused the television host of insulting the president, including by “underestimating his stature domestically and abroad.”

While private legal complaints have become fairly commonplace since Egypt’s 2011 uprising, the government has signaled that it takes the threat from Mr. Youssef much more seriously, going so far as to appoint a judge to investigate the complaints against him, according to Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch.

“It means you’re prioritizing the case, and dedicating resources to it,” she said, adding that the public prosecutor had moved aggressively against criminal defamation cases, while ignoring numerous complaints of torture and the use of excessive force by Egypt’s security services. Issuing an arrest warrant — without any reasonable fear that Mr. Youssef was trying to flee the country — “is completely unnecessary and definitely a political escalation,” she said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/world/middleeast/egypt-orders-arrest-of-satirist-for-skits-on-islam-and-morsi.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Time Magazine Suspends Fareed Zakaria for Plagiarizing

Fareed Zakaria in May at Harvard University, where he received an honorary degree.Steven Senne/Associated PressFareed Zakaria in May at Harvard University, where he received an honorary degree.

8:21 p.m. | Updated
Time magazine and CNN suspended Fareed Zakaria, the writer and television host, on Friday after he apologized for plagiarizing a New Yorker article in his column on gun control in the Aug. 20 issue of Time.

Some passages in Mr. Zakaria’s column, “The Case for Gun Control,” closely tracked those in a longer article on guns in America by the historian Jill Lepore, which appeared in the April 23 issue of The New Yorker.

The similarities in the texts were spotted by the conservative Web site NewsBusters, and quickly spread across the Internet after appearing on the media blog JimRomenesko.com.

Mr. Zakaria issued a statement Friday afternoon saying: “Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column this week bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore’s essay in the April 23 issue of The New Yorker. They are right. I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time, and to my readers.”

His admission is the second instance in less than two weeks of a prominent writer owning up to an ethical lapse. Last week, the science writer Jonah Lehrer admitted that he fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan for his best-selling book “Imagine: How Creativity Works.” Mr. Lehrer was forced to resign as a staff writer for The New Yorker, and his publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, said it would recall print copies of the book.

Time said it was suspending Mr. Zakaria’s column for a month, pending review. “Time accepts Fareed’s apology, but what he did violates our own standards for our columnists, which is that their work must not only be factual but original; their views must not only be their own but their words as well,” said Ali Zelenko, a spokeswoman for the magazine.

CNN, like Time magazine, is owned by Time Warner.

In a statement, CNN said: “We have reviewed Fareed Zakaria’s Time column, for which he has apologized. He wrote a shorter blog post on CNN.com on the same issue which included similar unattributed excerpts. That blog post has been removed and CNN has suspended Fareed Zakaria while this matter is under review.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Zakaria was criticized for giving a commencement speech at Harvard that was very similar to the one he had earlier given at Duke.

Mr. Zakaria, 48, balances a demanding schedule, doing work for multiple media properties. He is a CNN host, an editor at large at Time, a Washington Post columnist and an author. He was born in India and graduated from Harvard and Yale.

Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post’s editorial page editor, said he also would start examining Mr. Zakaria’s work: “Fareed Zakaria is a valued contributor. We’ve never had any reason to doubt the integrity of his work for us. Given his acknowledgment today, we intend to review his work with him.”

The following passages provide an example of the repetition of Ms. Lepore’s work in Mr. Zakaria’s column:

Mr. Zakaria:

Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, documents the actual history in Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Guns were regulated in the U.S. from the earliest years of the Republic. Laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813. Other states soon followed: Indiana in 1820, Tennessee and Virginia in 1838, Alabama in 1839 and Ohio in 1859. Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas (Texas!) explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”

Ms. Lepore:

As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”

A version of this article appeared in print on 08/11/2012, on page B2 of the NewYork edition with the headline: CNN and Time Suspend Journalist After Admission of Plagiarism.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/10/time-magazine-to-examine-plagiarism-accusation-against-zakaria/?partner=rss&emc=rss