Sunday, February 27, 2005

MBI Georgetown Press Conference

Oh, if you haven't already, you really should go watch the webcast of the Man Booker International Prize announcement. Feel free to skip straight to the questions, though - Mr Carey's opening speech thingie is rather dull.

Now I've never followed any type of book award before, but I still really like the way that this one is set up. The three judges (especially Azar Nafisi and Alberto Manguel) all obviously really love books and reading, and it's really a joy to see how open-minded they are about the whole thing - for example, they all admitted upfront that this was a very arbitrary process, basically based on their whims, and that it's hard to justify and explain to other people sometimes why one falls in love with a certain book (Carey - "All artistic judgments are autobiographical."). Mr Manguel was very charming with the wry jokes that only old men can make - ("How do you expect us readers to read all the authors before the prize is announced in June?" "Well you have the benefit of having the rest of your life to do that."), and Ms. Nafisi made all sorts of splendidly ambiguous and passionate analogies to reading and loving (and I'm pretty sure at one point she talked about sex with writers, but she might have just meant it in a metaphorical sense.).

They all made very insightful comments about reading, books, literature, and the state of affairs thereof. When asked if he thought books were a dying art, Carey responded adamantly that it was not, the evidence being that books are made into movies more often than movies are made into books - the creativity still starts with ink and paper, like it always has.

There were a few things that were said that I didn't like - for example, Carey stated in the beginning that the "primary aim" of the MBI is to "build bridges between cultures," and all three judges are primarily Anglophones, despite this being an international prize. But I think the former was something that Carey more or less had to say; the issue never came up in the Q&A - in fact, Ms. Nafisi (whom I'm now very much in love with; I plan to read Reading Lolita in Tehran ASAP) stressed that the best part of this prize was the shortlist, which would promote the reading and discussion of literature all around the world. And I'm totally with her there.

Link provided via the Literary Saloon.