Irish author Marian Keyes has called out the Bollinger Wodehouse Prize, awarded for comic fiction, as the shortlist of sixty-two novels failed to include her newest release The Break, and has pointed out that in the eighteen years the prize has been running, it has been awarded to a female author just three times.
Speaking to an audience at the Hay literary festival, Keyes said that a “sexist imbalance” has resulted in the huge disparity. Keyes also said to BBC News Channel’s Talking Books show:
Say what you like about me, but my books are funny. What more can I do to qualify?…Things that women love are just automatically dismissed as frivolous nonsense. Football could be considered as frivolous nonsense but it’s treated as hard news in the newspapers. So I think by giving the men the prizes, it just reinforces that the men are more important.
However, Keyes’ publisher Michael Joseph,an imprint of Penguin, confirmed that her novel was not received for consideration for the prize due to an error. They said, “As publishers, it is our responsibility to ensure that our author’s books are submitted for prizes. We can confirm she was not entered for the Wodehouse Prize. We believe we did enter The Break for the prize this year and we are devastated to hear the books have not been received.”
The publisher went on to confirm that though the novel had not ended up being entered, this did not take away from Keyes’ orginial point. “There are many brilliant women writing humorous books” they said, “and it is curious not more of them are shortlisted or winners of this prize.”
Before The Break‘s publication, 35 million copies of Irish Book Award winner Keyes’ novels had been sold and they have been translated into thirty-three languages. She has been an outspoken supporter of women’s rights.
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