The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Maria Pirkkalainen.
For the literary unity of the Commonwealth
When the Trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation announced in September 2013 that they would open up the Man Booker Prize for the first time for all authors writing in English, and not just to the citizens of the British Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland, the rationale behind the decision was clear. Including all the literary works written in English for the first time could easily help the 46-year-old award to enhance its position as one of the most prestigious and admired literary fiction prizes in the world.
However the backlash and nuanced discussion that followed was perhaps something that the Trustees hadn’t seen coming or certainly hadn’t hoped for. When the shortlist for the 2014 Prize was announced in September, two out of the six nominees, Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler, were American citizens. This was something that the British press – and the literary world – noticed quickly.
Australian author and two-time winner of the Booker prize Peter Carey was one of the most vocal opponents of the new rules. In an interview in the Guardian on October 13th, the established author criticized the change, because of the effect it could have on the real Commonwealth culture and Booker’s particular cultural flavour. Is globalization really the way to go for literary culture?
Another Australian writer had the honor of being awarded with the prize on Tuesday the 14th of October. The Man Booker Prize for 2014 was won by Richard Flanagan and his book The Narrow Road to the Deep North about an Australian prisoner-of-war working on the Burma death railway. The newly-appointed winner expressed his worries as well about the recent changes to the rules.
The discussion behind Booker Prize’s globalization occurs at an interesting time. The Foundation had its ambitious reasons for changing the rules to include a broader set of contestants, but the arguments against the change are valid too. The unity of the commonwealth and the long history behind it have been brought to the table, but is there really such a thing as a unified culture of the commonwealth?
All in all, the annual Man Booker Prize of 50.000 British pounds, has been a great opportunity for writers from smaller, historically less acknowledged literary cultures. From this perspective, it’s easy to understand why some of the most vocal opponents have been Australian writers.
Peter Carey also noted that a change such as this to the Pulitzer prize, the most acclaimed literary prize for US writers, would be highly unlikely. In the end, does it all boil down to an issue of British people not thinking very highly of themselves? If this really is the case then that should be addressed in the future, just like the new Booker Prize winner Flanagan spelled it out in a recent interview.
The Tube of the Future
A morning tube ride in London would hardly be the same without the driver kindly announcing that the tube is being held at a red signal. Even when several announcements have been automatised, the presence of a driver on the London tube is definitely something that the commuters have been fond of in a public transportation system as hectic as this.
Last week the London design studio Priestman Goode announced the new design for the future London tubes. The news were featured in for example It’s Nice That and Dezeen. The new tubes will include Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and screens in the place of the traditional paper adverts. Even when the stylish, new design is receiving a lot of praise, one issue seems to have upset many Londoners. By the middle 2020s, these new tubes will be driverless and some trains will be automatized already before that.
|Helsinki metro, the only metro in Finland, is currently going through automatization as well. Though in a city a lot smaller than London – and with just one tube line -, the effects of getting rid of the drivers do not even start to compare to the consequences that could be faced in London. In London, the new driverless trains would transport passengers on four tube lines of the legendary underground system.
Another interesting part of the story is the designing process itself and the challenges it has faced. London underground is the oldest underground system in the world, which also means that the tunnels are small and this had to be taken into account with every step of the process. Also, with the amount of passengers commuting each day, the task of designing the new tube was neither quick nor easy.
The new tubes will be introduced in 2020 and at first with drivers. The designers noted that the new trains could be serving the London underground system for the next 40 years.