There has been a ton of negative reactions to the Booker being split between what is arguably one of the most famous writers in the world and a relatively more unknown. This piece, though, criticizes the jury for not understanding how their choices change the focus of the press around the award to them and Atwood alone.
What the judges seem not to have appreciated is that the really important thing about literary prizes isn’t to facilitate arguments among booklovers (though I will happy fight anyone who doesn’t think it is a travesty that Do Not Say We Have Nothing, one of the best novels I have read, was shortlisted for the Booker and the Women’s Prize and won neither). It’s to sell books, whether they be the crime novels’ Gold Dagger Award, the scientifically-focused Wellcome Trust Prize, or the Champions League of book prizes, the Booker itself.
The reality is that splitting the prize has two consequences: the first is that the story becomes the judges and their self-indulgence and self-regard rather than the books involved; the second is that inevitably, the attention will be focussed on the justly famous Margaret Atwood not on Evaristo.