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Friday, September 24, 2021

We’ve turned the page on our links to the Commonwealth, say Booker Prize organisers

She said: “I find it interesting that there is so much attention being paid to the passports held by authors when literature more and more, as we go into the 21st century, is something that crosses borders.

“I would just like to underscore the fact about the Commonwealth – I find it pretty remarkable in the 21st century that people are talking about the former British Empire as an appropriate container within which to think about literature.”

Jasanoff is a biographer of Joseph Conrad, and once wrote an article for The Guardian headlined: “How Joseph Conrad foresaw the dark heart of Brexit Britain.”

Wood pointed to the absurdity of Commonwealth writers being eligible for the prize pre-2014 simply because their home countries had been colonised by the British, while those whose countries were colonised by other European nations could not be considered.

She cited Maaza Mengiste as an example. Shortlisted for the prize last year, she was born in Ethiopia, which formed part of Italian East Africa in the early part of the 20th century.

“She was just colonised by the wrong guys, you know? I mean, Ethiopia was colonised by the Italians. What do you do, [say] ‘Sorry, you weren’t colonised by us, the really great colonisers, and so you’re not eligible’?” It just doesn’t seem a conversation that we should be having,” Wood said.

The winner will be announced on November 3.

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