The 2021 International Booker Prize Longlist

Announced 30 March 2021

Today, the judges of the 2021 International Booker Prize reveal the 13 novels longlisted for the prestigious award which celebrates the finest translated fiction from around the world.

Complementing The Booker Prize for Fiction, the prize is awarded every year for a single book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. It aims to encourage more publishing and reading of quality works of imagination from all over the world, and to give greater recognition to the role of translators. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible. The contribution of both author and translator is given equal recognition, with the £50,000 prize split evenly between them. Each shortlisted author and translator also receives £1,000, bringing the total value of the prize to £62,000.

Publication date and time: Published
  • The 13 longlisted works are translated from 11 languages and originate from 12 countries across four continents
  • Translator Megan McDowell appears on the longlist for the fourth time for The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, having been both shortlisted and longlisted before. All the other translators are newcomers to the prize
  • Can Xue is the only author to have been longlisted before
  • The longlist includes a book translated by its author for the first time, by renowned writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

This year the judges considered 125 books. The full 2021 International Booker longlist is:

Title, Author, Translator, Original language, Publisher or Imprint

  • I Live in the Slums by Can Xue, translated by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping from Chinese. Published by Yale University Press, London
  • At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated by Anna Mocschovakis from French. Published by Pushkin Press
  • The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili, translated by Elizabeth Heighway from Georgian. Published by Peirene Press
  • The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell from Spanish. Published by Granta Books
  • When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, translated by Adrian Nathan West from Spanish. Published by Pushkin Press
  • The Perfect Nine: The Epic Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, translated by the author from Gikuyu. Published by VINTAGE, Harvill Secker
  • The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated by Martin Aitken from Danish. Published by Lolli Editions
  • Summer Brother by Jaap Robben, translated by David Doherty from Dutch. Published by World Editions
  • An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky, translated by Jackie Smith from German. Published by Quercus, MacLehose Press
  • Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette from Arabic. Published by Fitzcarraldo Editions
  • In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated by Sasha Dugdale from Russian. Published by Fitzcarraldo Editions
  • Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý, translated by Nichola Smalley from Swedish. Published by And Other Stories
  • The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard, translated by Mark Polizzotti from French. Published by Pan Macmillan, Picador

The longlist 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 shortlist for the prize will be announced on 22 April 2021, and the winner announced on 2 June 2021 in a virtual celebration from Coventry, City of Culture 2021.

2020 Booker Prize trophy

Lucy Hughes-Hallett says:

‘In a year when we could scarcely leave our own houses, we judges have been crossing continents, transported by our reading. Every book we’ve read is unique. However a theme does emerge – migration, the pain of it, but also the fruitful interconnectedness of the modern world.’

‘Not all writers stay in their native countries.  Many do, and write wonderful fiction about their hometowns.  But our longlist includes a Czech/Polish author’s vision of a drug-fuelled Swedish underworld, a Dutch author from Chile writing in Spanish about German and Danish scientists, and a Senegalese author writing from France about Africans fighting in a European war.’

‘Authors cross borders, and so do books, refusing to stay put in rigidly separated categories.  We’ve read books that were like biographies, like myths, like essays, like meditations, like works of history - each one transformed into a work of fiction by the creative energy of the author’s imagination.’

‘Thanks to those remarkable books, and to their translators, we’ve been freed to explore the world.  We hope this prize will inspire many more readers to follow us.’

Lucy Hughes-Hallett

The full press release can be downloaded here.