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John Le Carre stirs controversy trying to withdraw from prize consideration

Johnlecarre_2008 Who would have thought that removing your name from contention for a highly competitive prize worth nearly $100,000 would be a problem? But when your name is John le Carré, bowing out graciously apparently isn't an option.

The prize is the Man Booker International, which is awarded every other year to an author from any nation for his or her body of work that's either been published in English or widely translated. Like the Nobel, it serves as a kind of lifetime achievement award, and its prize money -- more than $96,000 -- is certainly a nice bonus. It announced 13 finalists Tuesday, including Americans Philip Roth, Anne Tyler and Marilynne Robinson -- and Le Carré.

Apparently, Le Carré, who's been a regular on bestseller lists -- including ours -- since the appearance there of his 1964 thriller "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold," says he's all right, thanks. "I am enormously flattered to be named as a finalist of 2011 Man Booker International Prize," he said in a statement issued through his literary agent. "However I do not compete for literary prizes and have therefore asked for my name to be withdrawn."

But dropping out isn't so easy. "John le Carré's name will, of course, remain on the list," the Man Booker International's judges chair, Rick Gekoski, said in a statement. "We are disappointed that he wants to withdraw from further consideration because we are great admirers of his work."

That work continues to impress. Tim Rutten called Le Carré "our greatest living master of espionage fiction" when he reviewed "Our Kind of Traitor," which came out in October 2010. It was Le Carré's 22nd novel; several of his books, including "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "The Constant Gardner" and "The Tailor of Panama" have been made into films.

The Man Booker International Prize will be awarded to someone -- probably, after all this, not Le Carré -- at the Sydney Writers' Festival in Australia on May 18 and celebrated in London on June 28.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: John Le Carré in 2008. Credit: Cristian Barnett / Hodder & Stoughton

Comments () | Archives (5)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Le Carre really stands out in the sea of mass produced rubbish especially coming out of USA. His books are not just thrillers but thought provoking commentaries of political machinations of governments of all persuasions. They are well researched and extremely well written and if anybody deserves this prize, it's him.

Some people are very comfortable knowing that they feel good
in what they do and do it well. Perhaps Mr. Le Carre is that man. He certainly has written wonderful books that many have enjoyed. Bravo Mr Le Carre, you are an author or
great substance.

I have a short list of names I dread I will read one day in the morning obits. Elmore Leonard, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Judy Dench, and certainly, John Le Carré.

I have immense respect for John Le Carre and his willingness to call a spade spade in the world of international politics.

I don't compete for prizes either, but I do accept them. So far, none have arrived.


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