The Folio Society was named yesterday as the sponsor of a new international prize in fiction. The £40,000 Folio Prize will be awarded for the first time in 2014 to the best fiction written in the English language. Unlike the Booker, the new prize will be open to American writers, allowing literary luminaries such as Cormac McCarthy and Joyce Carol Oates to compete with Ian McEwan and Hilary Mantel.
Andrew Kidd, a London literary agent, originated the idea in 2011 in the midst of a public debate about the future of the Booker prize. Some felt the Booker was heading in a worrisome direction when judges remarked that they were looking for "readability" or books that "zip along" in addition to literary merit. Kidd wants to keep the focus more specifically on literary fiction with the hopes of bringing literary gems to a wider audience.
The Folio Society was announced as the surprise sponsor yesterday in the British press. The Folio Society - who needs no introduction on this blog - was proud to be a part of the new prize. Its managing director, Toby Hartwell, was quoted in the Guardian saying he was won over by the idea "of recognizing literature of enduring value and celebrating books that will be read not just in five years time but in 100 years' time."
Presumably the Folio Society will try to make some sort of arrangement with publishers to produce Folio Society editions of the prize winners. This could initiate a whole new series of books for Folio Society collectors.