RNIB and the Man Booker Prize - The prize is in sight!

7 October 2015

Thanks to sponsorship from the Booker Prize Foundation, RNIB is able to make the six books shortlisted for their prestigious prize into formats that blind and partially sighted people can read.

Not only that, thanks to the help we receive, we’re also able to make these available by the time the winner is announced in October. In our series of blogs leading up to the big announcement, we tell you a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes!

The prize is in sight!

By Sean Downs, Celebrity Manager

Last year we were delighted that all six of the shortlisted authors joined us in our Talking Book Studios to take part in interviews with our Insight Radio team. As soon as the shortlist is announced I start contact each of the authors to invite them in to our Talking Book Studios in Camden or, when distance makes this impossible, to answer our questions over the phone.

Robert Kirkwood is our resident literary guru. He hosts a daily show featuring exclusive audio, author interviews, behind the scenes features and the book or short story we are currently covering. Every year, his listeners enjoy the in-depth coverage of the Man Booker Prize and the opportunity to hear from six of the best contemporary authors. It’s my job to ensure that each have the opportunity to publicise their novel to our listeners and to our Library members, for whom The Booker Prize Foundation have helped us to make the book available.  

Robert’s interview is unique to all the other hundreds that the authors are conducting in the run up to the Prize announcement – and those returning for a second time often remember it clearly. As well as asking them about their plot, characters and motivations, he is also asking them to reflect for a moment on how their books are accessed and enjoyed by their blind and partially sighted fans.

Here are a few of the unique thoughts we enjoyed from last year’s shortlisted authors:

“Books are the great demographic art form. They’re available everywhere the best of them, you can get them for nothing from a library or people will lend them to you because they’re not really worth anything much – not like a great paining or something like that. The one millionth paperback version or the braille version of my book, or a great book, is just as valid, just as original, just unique as the very first edition or the manuscript as it left the writer’s hand.” Richard Flanagan, Man Booker Prize winner 2014

 “Imagination is not exclusive, our genders are not exclusive, love is not exclusive and our living worlds are not exclusive. So let’s not make any of our art exclusive.” Ali Smith, Man Booker Prize shortlisted author 2001, 2005 and 2014

“Reading, however you do it, is essential. I’m happy that people hear my words. I’m a writer that likes his words to be heard, almost performative writer - though I’m not a performance artist. I do hear my sentences when I write and I like to imagine them reverberating in people’s heads; not just things that you see on the page, words that you hear.”

Howard Jacobson, Man Booker Prize winner 2010, longlisted author 2006 and shortlisted author 2014

Check back in after the winner is announced (13 October) to find out how it all comes together, what this year’s authors have to say when they’re interviewed by RNIB Insight Radio, and how you can borrow the books in giant print, braille or as a Talking Book.