Read 126 novels and come up with a shortlist of six — the job of a literary award panellist is not easy
DANIEL HAHN, one of the five judges of the Man Booker International Prize, has had to get through quite a lot of reading recently. Specifically, he has had to read 126 novels translated into English in the course of four months. That’s around a book a day. So how did he do it? “Quickly,” he says. “It’s difficult, and it makes you a little bit crazy… and it doesn’t get any easier. Reading a book a day is perfectly possible so long as you don’t have a huge number of other things to do. The difficulty is that we all have other jobs. I, for example, am a translator.”
But does it really make sense for the judging panel of a literary prize to have to perform such an extraordinary feat of reading? Does it allow the judges to focus sufficiently on each book?
Mr Hahn, whose father is Jewish, acknowledges that not all prizejudging works this way. For some awards, there is a kind of triage process where books are read by some of the panel, and passed on to the rest only if they are deemed worthy.