LONDON (AFP) – The Man Booker Prize announced on Wednesday that it was expanding to cover all novels written in the English language, saying it would welcome authors whether they come from "Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai".
The ??50,000 Booker has until now been awarded annually for the best work of fiction by an author from Britain, the Commonwealth or Ireland -- but had notably excluded American writers.
Previous multiple winners include English novelist Hilary Mantel, Australian author Peter Carey and the South African J.M. Coetzee.
"The Man Booker Prize is to expand eligibility for future prizes to include novels originally written in English and published in the UK, regardless of the nationality of the author," said Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation.
"The expanded prize will recognise, celebrate and embrace authors writing in English, whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai."
Taylor said the prize's trustees "have not made this decision quickly or lightly" and it followed 18 months of consultation with the publishing world.
"Initially the thinking was that we might set up a new prize specifically for US writers. But at the end of the process we were wary of jeopardising or diluting the existing Man Booker Prize," he said.
"Instead we agreed that the prize, which for 45 years has been the touchstone for literary fiction written in English of the highest quality, could enhance its prestige and reputation through expansion, rather than by setting up a separate prize."
Novels must still have been published in Britain and entered by their British publisher, he said.
The prize is awarded to a specific book, rather than an author, and is evaluated by a group of judges who compile a long list of novels, followed by a shortlist and then select the final winner.
The foundation also awards a separate, yearly Man Booker International Prize which recognises a writer's overall contribution to world fiction that has been either written in or translated into English.