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The 2021 International Booker Prize shortlist announced

The 2021 International Booker Prize shortlist announced

Today, 22 April, the 2021 International Booker Prize announces the six books in the running for this year’s prize, which celebrates the finest fiction from around the world, translated into English. The contribution of both author and translator is given equal recognition, with the £50,000 prize split evenly between them.

The 2021 shortlist is:

At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from French by Anna Moschovakis, Pushkin Press
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell, Granta Books
When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West, Pushkin Press
The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken, Lolli Editions
In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale, Fitzcarraldo Editions
The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard, translated from French by Mark Polizzotti, Pan Macmillan, Picador

The six writers on this year’s shortlist have been praised by figures as wide ranging as Phillip Pullman, Patti Smith, Sarah Waters, Dave Eggers, Geoff Dyer and Philippe Sands.

Revolutionary in form, in content and in point of view, the books on this year’s shortlist are all urgent, energetic and wildly original works of literature. The stories told include: terrifying tales of unruly teenagers, crooked witches, homeless ghosts, and hungry women set in contemporary Argentina; the historical account of two Senegalese soldiers fighting for France during the first world war; the lives of the crew working on the Six-Thousand Ship in the 22nd century; stories of the defining moments from the history of science;  the exploration of cultural and personal memory, using the author’s Jewish family in Russia as the basis; and a tale of rebellion against power and privilege set during the Protestant Reformation in 16th-century Germany.

Award-winners in their own languages, two-thirds of the shortlisted authors are new voices for English speaking readers to discover. The shortlisted books subvert familiar genres, be it reinventions of war stories, science fiction, the gothic or revolutionary political tracts. They probe the nature of memory, ideas and whether human failure masquerades as progress.

The shortlist is again dominated by independent publishers, with two books published by Pushkin Press, as well as books by Granta Books, Fitzcarraldo and Lolli Editions. The latter has never been recognised by the prize before. This year the judges considered 125 books. The shortlist spans four languages: Danish, French, Spanish and Russian, with settings ranging across Europe, South America and even into outer space.

The shortlist was selected by the 2021 judging panel consisting of: cultural historian and novelist, Lucy Hughes-Hallett (chair); journalist and writer, Aida Edemariam; Man Booker shortlisted novelist, Neel Mukherjee; Professor of the History of Slavery, Olivette Otele; and poet, translator and biographer, George Szirtes.

The 2021 International Booker Prize winner will be announced on 2 June 2021, in an online ceremony from Coventry UK City of Culture 2021.