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JM Coetzee and Helen Oyeyemi Named as Members of The Folio Society Academy, Driving Force Behind New Lit Prize

Alert! JM Coetzee and Helen Oyeyemi have joined an impressive list of over 100 authors and critics who make up The Folio Society Academy, a newly formed institution that supports a major new literature prize sponsored by the Folio Society. The Folio Prize was announced yesterday at the British Library and will be awarded every March to books published in the UK and written in English. The shortlist for the inuagural prize will be announced in February 2014.

Mr FoxThe Childhood of JesusHere and Now

The Folio Society Academy will be the driving force behind the prize. Each year five members of the Academy will be chosen to act as the judging panel. They will be given 80 books to consider, which they will narrow down to a shortlist of eight books, one of which will be named the winner of the £40,000 prize.

The man behind the idea for the prize, literary agent Andrew Kidd, has dismissed the inevitable comparisons to the Man Booker Prize, saying that, “All book prizes are charitable organisations that are run for the public benefit, so this notion of prizes somehow rivalling each other doesn’t really make any sense. More initiatives that bring more great books to more people can only be a good thing.”

However, Kidd was among those who criticised the 2011 Man Booker judges for saying they had looked for “readability” and he made the following comment about the kinds of books The Folio Prize will be considering: “Gems is not code for difficult or obscure. Many, even most, great books go down easily. That said, the prize will not apologise for getting excited about books that might at first appear daunting, that go on to reward dedicated readers by reflecting the world back to them in an entirely unexpected or different way.”

Members of the Academy “for whom there is a perceived conflict of interest” will be recused for that year and Coetzee has been earmarked to sit this one out – perhaps because of an impending nomination for The Childhood of Jesus?

Mark Brown from The Guardian reported on the announcement:

The Folio Society has been named as the surprise sponsor of a new fiction prize that its supporters hope will rival the stature of the Man Booker prize, but – crucially – will also be open to American writers, allowing the likes of Jonathan Franzen to compete with Hilary Mantel.

The society was created in 1947 to make beautifully illustrated and collectible print editions of great literary works.

Charlotte Williams has published the complete list of Academy members on The Bookseller:

The Folio Society has been announced as sponsor of the Literature Prize, the new award co-founded by Aitken Alexander director Andrew Kidd.
In an announcement at the British Library this evening (13th March), organisers revealed the £40,000 prize, which aims to “celebrate the best English-language fiction from around the world”, will now be known as The Folio Prize.

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