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"But Now I Am Found"
In 1941, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded its Academy Award for Best Picture—formerly called the Outstanding Motion Picture—to How Green Was My Valley. The film, which won a total of five Oscars, including the Directing Award for John Ford, is a compelling story about a coal mining family in southern Wales. But, looking back more than seventy years later, one might wonder how it won the award over both The Maltese Falcon and Citizen Kane, the latter of which is now considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. Similar questions could be asked regarding how Around the World in 80 Days won the Best Picture Award in 1956 over The Ten Commandments or how Laughing Boy by Oliver Lafarge won the Pulitzer Prize for a Novel—later renamed the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction—over both Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury in 1930. What if the Academy or the committee at Columbia University that administers the Pulitzer Prize had the benefit of the perspective that only time can provide? Moreover, what if they opened the voting to the public? Would they—would we—make the same choices?
The Lost Man Booker Prize offered a rare glimpse into the exercise of 40 years of hindsight. In 1971, the Booker Prize, which had only existed for two years at the time, changed the procedure for awarding its prize, deciding to consider only novels published in the same year as the award instead of those published in the previous year. Hence novels published in 1970 were never eligible to be considered for the prize. In 2008, the foundation that administers the award—now known as the Man Booker Prize—set out to rectify this situation, and a panel of three judges was appointed to select a shortlist of six novels from 1970. After the shortlist was chosen in 2010, the winner was decided by public vote via the Man Booker Prize website.
The winner selected by readers ...