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The longlist for the International Booker Prize 2023 is announced and features work from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
The International Booker Prize – the most significant award for a single work of translated fiction – is awarded annually for a novel or short story collection written originally in any language, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. It rewards authors and translators in equal measure, and takes readers to multiple worlds beyond the anglosphere, showing how much broader the world can be.
The 13 books on the longlist have been chosen by the 2023 judging panel: Leïla Slimani (chair), prize-winning French-Moroccan novelist; Uilleam Blacker, one of Britain’s leading literary translators from Ukrainian; Tan Twan Eng, the Booker-shortlisted Malaysian novelist; Parul Sehgal, staff writer and critic at the New Yorker; and Frederick Studemann, Literary Editor of the Financial Times.
Their selection was made from 134 books published between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023 and submitted to the prize by publishers.
Title, original language, author, author nationality, translator, translator nationality, UK Imprint.
‘Through literature we experience the fact that we are, at the end of the day, just human beings. We cry the same. We are moved by the same things. We are all afraid, we all fall in love and we have the same emotions. And this is the point of translation, that all over the world we can understand an emotion.
‘What was very rewarding about this experience was reading books from all over the world, with an extraordinary variety of form and content. Each of the judges had different tastes and that is what we have tried to reflect in this list. It celebrates the variety and diversity of literary production today, the different ways in which the novel can be viewed. We wanted to give the reader the chance to discover this and to find something that will move or disturb them. The list is also a celebration of the power of language and of authors who wanted to push formal enquiry as far as possible. We wanted to celebrate literary ambition, panache, originality and of course, through this, the talent of translators who have been able to convey all of this with great skill.’
‘To read a book translated from another language is to embark on a global adventure. The judges looked closely not just at what the writers and their translators were telling us about the world we live in, but also at how they told us. The panel talked about ideas and emotion in fiction, about form, structure, originality, poetry, ethics, character and the importance of humour. The longlist for the International Booker Prize 2023 leaps from Mexico to Sweden, from Norway to South Korea, from China to Guadeloupe, from Côte d’Ivoire to Ukraine. Through fable and myth, stories and sagas, it proves that reading has no borders.’
Boulder by Eva Baltasar, translated from Catalan by Julia Sanches
‘Boulder is a sensuous, sexy, intense book. Eva Baltasar condenses the sensations and experiences of a dozen more ordinary novels into just over 100 pages of exhilarating prose. An incisive story of queer love and motherhood that slices open the dilemmas of exchanging independence for intimacy.’
Whale by Cheon Myeong-kwan, translated from Korean by Chi-Young Kim
‘A carnivalesque fairy tale that celebrates independence and enterprise, a picaresque quest through Korea’s landscapes and history, Whale is a riot of a book. Cheon Myeong-Kwan’s vivid characters are foolish but wise, awful but endearing, and always irrepressible. This is a hymn to restlessness and self-transformation.’
The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé, translated from French by Richard Philcox
‘Maryse Condé is one of the greatest Francophone authors and the great voice of the Caribbean. In this book she proves again what a gifted storyteller she is. The narration is lively and fluid, and we feel carried away by this story as we do by the fables of our childhood. She takes liberties, finding references in the Bible as well as in Caribbean myths. The book borrows from the tradition of magical realism and draws us into a world full of colour and life. This is a book that succeeds in mixing humour with poetry, and depth with lightness.’
Standing Heavy by GauZ’, translated from French by Frank Wynne
‘A sharp and satirical take on the legacies of French colonial history and life in Paris today. Told in a fast-paced, and fluently translated, style of shifting perspectives, Standing Heavy carries us through the decades – from the youthful optimism of the decolonisation of the 1960s to the banal realities of daily shift work on the margins of contemporary consumer society – to deliver a fresh perspective on France that is critical, funny and human.’
Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel
‘A wide-ranging, thought-provoking, macabre and humorous novel about nationality, identity and ageing, and about the healing and destructive power of memory. It asks the question: what is our place in 20th century history, when that history seems to be constantly shifting? “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be,” they say, and this book shows us – in moving, funny and disturbing ways – how and why.’
Is Mother Dead by Vigdis Hjorth, translated from Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund
‘This is a dark, chilling book. One of its tricks is to rely on a narrator who is an anti-heroine, and who can be annoying because of her narcissism and her malice. That’s what makes her real and what makes us care about her. This novel provides a very fine and cruel understanding of family relationships: the violence of the mother-daughter dynamic, which reminds us of Marguerite Duras; the impossibility of getting to know each other within the same family; family life as a prison of secrets and silence. Vigdis Hjorth manages to create a lot of suspense – a thriller-like tension – and what is amazing is that you never really know whose side you are on.’
Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv by Andrey Kurkov, translated from Russian by Reuben Woolley
‘The escapades of Andrey Kurkov’s loveable eccentrics provide a frame for an intriguing portrait of Lviv in the 2000s, a melancholy borderland city that finds itself recalling a troubled past as it sits on the cusp of an uncertain future. This is a book full of magic that is always grounded, cosiness that is always on the edge of being unsettled, and dark humour that is always affectionate.’
The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier, translated from French by Daniel Levin Becker
‘This impressive and fascinating book reconciles two primal feelings: empathy and dread. It is a very scary book, rooted in the traditions of horror. It is as scary as when we listened to stories about ogres and wolves as children. The writing is formidable. The slow rhythm of the sentences creates tension as much as the situation itself. Laurent Mauvignier also describes brilliantly an abandoned rural France where there is a sense of marginalisation and humiliation.’
While We Were Dreaming by Clemens Meyer, translated from German by Katy Derbyshire
‘As walls fall and political systems collapse, a group of youngsters in Leipzig are pitched into a helter-skelter world of partying, violence, drugs, crime and techno music. Energetic, blunt and hard-charging, While We Were Dreaming skilfully captures with pathos and anger the sense of what happens when all the certainties of the grown-up world evaporate and the future is up for grabs. The story of German unification as it did not appear on your TV screen.’
Pyre by Perumal Murugan, translated from Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan
‘An intercaste couple elopes, setting in motion a story of terrifying foreboding. Perumal Murugan is a great anatomist of power and, in particular, of the deep, deforming rot of caste hatred and violence. With flashes of fable, his novel tells a story specific and universal: how flammable are fear and the distrust of others.’
Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel, translated from Spanish by Rosalind Harvey
‘Two best friends share an aversion to “the human shackles” of motherhood, only to discover that life has other plans. With a twisty, enveloping plot, the novel poses some of the knottiest questions about freedom, disability, and dependence – all in language so blunt it burns.’
A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding by Amanda Svensson, translated from Swedish by Nichola Smalley
‘When a set of adult triplets learns that one of them might have been switched in the hospital after their birth, each of them becomes convinced that they are the changeling. Amanda Svensson’s raucous, sprawling debut takes on the enigmas of our origins, riddles of human consciousness and animal cognition, doomsday cults, and the most bedevilling of mysteries – the minds and choices of our closest intimates.’
Ninth Building by Zou Jingzhi, translated from Chinese by Jeremy Tiang
‘A kaleidoscopic and understated collection of interlocking tales of life in an apartment building under the Cultural Revolution – the daily tedium of its inhabitants, lit by brief and tenuous moments of shared humanity.’
The six books shortlisted for this year’s prize will be announced by Chair of judges Leïla Slimani in the Tech Theatre at the London Book Fair at 11.00am BST on Tuesday April 18. There is a prize of £5,000 for each of the shortlisted titles: £2,500 for the author and £2,500 for the translator (or divided equally between multiple translators).
The winner will be announced at a ceremony held at Sky Garden in London on Tuesday May 23. The winners’ prize purse is £50,000; £25,000 for the author and £25,000 for the translator (or divided equally between multiple translators).
Shortlist readings, Southbank Centre
An evening of shortlist readings will be mediated by Merve Emre, Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford and regular contributor to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books on Thursday May 18, 7.30pm, Purcell Room, Southbank Centre.
The 2023 winners at the Hay Festival
The prize’s annual visit to the festival occurs at 4.00pm on Saturday May 27, when International Booker Prize judge and novelist Tan Twan Eng and Booker Prize Foundation Chief Executive Gaby Wood will be in conversation with the winning author and translator of the International Booker Prize 2023.
The International Booker Prize’s impact
The winner can expect international recognition and a significant uplift in global sales. Last year’s winner, Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree and translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, made history as the first novel translated from any South Asian language to be recognised by the International Booker Prize. The UK edition initially sold 473 copies in the first six months after publication, which increased to over 5,000 copies between the longlist announcement in February and the end of May 2022. In the nine months since its win on May 26 2022 it has sold a further 25,000 copies making it the publisher, Tilted Axis’s, biggest seller. Rights have been sold in a dozen languages and a US edition was recently published by HarperVia.