Booker Prize picks academic as next chairman of judges

LONDON Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:36pm EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Robert Macfarlane, an academic at Cambridge University, will chair the judges for the next Man Booker Prize to be held in 2013, organizers said on Wednesday.

The choice of a second literary heavyweight in succession to oversee one of the English language's top fiction awards appears to be a deliberate attempt to avoid criticism leveled at more populist choices in recent years.

This year's chair of judges was Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement.

Stella Rimington, Britain's former spy boss and a novelist in her own right, irked the "literati" in 2011 by stressing the importance of "readability" in her choice of winner because it was seen as too populist a view.

Macfarlane, a fellow in English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and regular contributor to newspapers and periodicals, was on the judging panel in 2004.

"I feel very proud indeed to be chairing this prize, which has done so much to shape the modern literary landscape," he said in a statement.

"I look forward greatly - with, it's true, a dash of trepidation - to the 40,000 or so pages of reading that my fellow judges and I have ahead of us."

The long list for the Man Booker Prize comprising 12 or 13 titles under serious consideration will be announced in July next year, followed by the shortlist of six titles in September and winner in October.

Hilary Mantel won the 2012 prize for "Bring Up the Bodies", making her the first woman and first Briton to win the coveted award twice.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

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