Published on Submitted by The Booker Prizes on Thu, 12/04/2018 - 17:33
The Man Booker International Prize today, Thursday 12 April, reveals the shortlist of six books in contention for the 2018 prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world. The £50,000 prize for the winning book will be divided equally between its author and translator.
The 2018 shortlist is as follows:
Author (country/territory), Translator, Title, (imprint)
The list includes Han Kang and Deborah Smith, who won the prize in 2016 for The Vegetarian, and László Krasznahorkai, who won the prize in its former iteration in 2015, when it was awarded for an achievement in fiction evident in a body of work. The list spans four European languages: French, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish; one from South Korea, and one from Iraq, in Arabic.
The settings range from the rock music scene in Paris, to the streets of Baghdad where a monster roams wild, to James Earl Ray’s short stay in Lisbon fleeing law enforcement; two novels span the globe, one charting Chopin’s heart making a covert voyage from Paris to Warsaw, and one featuring men on the edge of despair in Kiev, Varanasi and Shanghai; with one novel being a meditation on the colour white and an investigation of mourning and rebirth.
The translators are all at the forefront of their craft, with John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes a well-established team for Krasznahorkai and Deborah Smith translating every work by Han Kang. Frank Wynne comes through with his French translation, having also been longlisted for a translation from Spanish.
The shortlist is dominated by independent publishers, with two books from Tuskar Rock Press, and one each from MacLehose Press, Portobello Books, Oneworld and Fitzcarraldo Editions.
Lisa Appignanesi, chair of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize judging panel, comments:
‘This is a shortlist emblematic of the many adventures of fiction – its making and reading. We have mesmeric meditations, raucous, sexy, state- of- the- nation stories, haunting sparseness and sprawling tales; enigmatic cabinets of curiosity, and daring acts of imaginative projection – all this plus sparkling encounters with prose in translation. We were sorry to have shed so much of our longlist talent, but this is a shortlist to read and re-read.’
More judges’ comments on each book can be found in ‘Book synopses and biographies’ in the lower part of this release.
Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group, comments:
‘Congratulations to the authors and translators included on the shortlist, which recognises talent and creativity from around the world. We are proud to support the Man Booker International Prize’s celebration of international literary excellence, as well as the important charitable work of the Booker Prize Foundation in promoting literature and literacy.’
The longlist was selected by a panel of five judges, chaired by Lisa Appignanesi OBE, author and cultural commentator, and consisting of; Michael Hofmann, poet, reviewer and translator from German; Hari Kunzru, author of five novels including The Impressionist and White Tears; Tim Martin, journalist and literary critic, and Helen Oyeyemi, author of novels, plays and short stories including The Icarus Girl.
The winner of the 2018 prize will be announced on 22 May at a formal dinner at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, with the £50,000 prize being divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning book.
Leading up to the winner announcement, there will be a number of public events featuring some of the judges, authors and translators:
17 May ‘Translation at its Finest’ event in partnership with Foyles and English PEN
Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London
21 May Man Booker International Prize event with Waterstones at The Emmanuel Centre, Westminster, London
The Man Booker International Prize and the Man Booker Prize for Fiction together reward the best books from around the globe that are published in the UK and are available in English.
The prize is sponsored by Man Group, an active investment management firm that also sponsors the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Both prizes strive to recognise and reward the finest in contemporary literature.
www.themanbookerprize.com | @ManBookerPrize | #MBI2018 #FinestFiction
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The shortlist for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize:
Book synopses, biographies and judges’ comments
Vernon Subutex 1
Translated by Frank Wynne
Published by MacLehose Press
Vernon Subutex was once the proprietor of Revolver, an infamous music shop in Bastille. His legend spread throughout Paris. But by the 2000s, with the arrival of the internet and the decline in CDs and vinyl, his shop is struggling. When it closes, Subutex is out on a limb, with no idea what to do next. Nothing sticks. Before long, his savings are gone, his employment benefit is cut, and when the friend who had been covering his rent dies suddenly, Subutex finds himself relying on friends with spare sofas and ultimately alone and out on the Paris streets. But, as he is stretching out his hand to beg from strangers in the street, a throwaway comment he made on Facebook is taking the internet by storm.
Vernon does not realise this, of course. It has been many weeks since he was able to afford access to the internet, but the word is out: Vernon Subutex has in his possession the last filmed recordings of Alex Bleach, famous musician and Vernon’s benefactor, who recently died of a drug overdose. Unbeknownst to Vernon, a crowd of people, from record producers to online trolls and porn stars, are now on his trail.
The judges comment:
“This book is a racy, sexy urban picaresque in which, through the horrors of contemporary capitalism, we learn a great deal about sex on the net, we learn a great deal about the relationships within the music industry. There is a kind of loneliness to the individual that comes out in this book which is very affecting and somehow very current.”
Virginie Despentes was born in Nancy, France, in June 1969. She is a writer and filmmaker, and former maid, sex worker and freelance rock journalist. Her first novel, Baise-Moi, the controversial rape-revenge story, was published in 1992 and adapted for film in 2000. Upon release it became the first film to be banned in France for 28 years. She is the author of over 15 further works, including Apocalypse Baby (2010) and Bye Bye Blondie (2004) and the autobiographical essay, King Kong Theory (2006).
Frank Wynne was born in County Sligo, Ireland, in April 1962. He is an award-winning translator from French and Spanish. His previous translations include works by Pierre Lemaitre, Patrick Modiano and Michel Houellebecq. He lives in London.
The White Book
Translated by Deborah Smith
Published by Portobello Books
An unnamed narrator moves to a European city where she is haunted by the story of her older sister, who died a mere two hours after birth. As she contemplates the child's short life she focuses on the whiteness and all it symbolises. The White Book is a meditation on colour beginning with a list of white things. It is a book about mourning, rebirth and the tenacity of the human spirit. It investigates the fragility, beauty and strangeness of life.
The judges comment:
“The White Book is a very delicate, very slight and measured piece of work. It’s a collection of white things; white is the colour of mourning and the colour of non-existence. It is a glimpsed story of an older sibling of Hang Kang’s who was born and very quickly died. It expresses respect and represents the guilt of being alive.”
Han Kang was born in Gwangju, South Korea, in November 1970, and moved to Seoul at the age of 10. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. Her writing has won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today's Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. The Vegetarian, her first novel to be translated into English, was published by Portobello Books in 2015 and won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. She is also the author of Human Acts (Portobello, 2016). She is based in Seoul.
Deborah Smith was born in Doncaster, UK, in December 1987. Her translations from the Korean include two earlier novels by Han Kang, The Vegetarian and Human Acts, and two by Bae Suah, A Greater Music and Recitation. In 2015 Deborah completed a PhD at SOAS on contemporary Korean literature and founded Tilted Axis Press. In 2016 she won the Arts Foundation Award for Literary Translation.
The World Goes On
Translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes
Published by Tuskar Rock Press
A Hungarian interpreter obsessed with waterfalls, at the edge of the abyss in his own mind, wanders the chaotic streets of Shanghai. A traveller, reeling from the sights and sounds of Varanasi, encounters a giant of a man on the banks of the Ganges ranting on the nature of a single drop of water. A child labourer in a Portuguese marble quarry wanders off from work one day into a surreal realm alien from his daily toils. The World Goes On is a collection of 21 unforgettable stories from the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2015.
The judges comment:
“Krasznahorkai will be known to many followers of the Man Booker International because he was a winner when the prize was in its previous form. In this current volume, which is an collection of writings and stories interconnected by theme, he is both at his most profound and most approachable. He is both completely engrossing and absorbing, and a genius of prose, but is also someone who demands of his reader a particular kind of attentiveness and attention, which the novel doesn’t always ask of one.”
László Krasznahorkai was born in Gyula, Hungary, in January 1954. He is the author of The Last Wolf, War & War, The Melancholy of Resistance, Seiobo There Below, all published by Serpent's Tail, and several other works. He has won numerous prizes, including the Man Booker International Prize 2015, 2013 Best Translated Book Award, and 1993 Best Book of the Year Award in Germany.
John Batki was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1942. He is a kilimologist, writer, translator, and visual artist. He was born in Hungary and has lived in the United States since age 14.
Ottilie Mulzet was born in Toronto, Canada in July 1960. She is a Hungarian translator of poetry and prose, as well as a literary critic. She has worked as the English-language editor of the internet journal of the Hungarian Cultural Centre in Prague, and her translations appear regularly at Hungarian Literature Online. She received the Best Translated Book Award in 2014 for her translation of László Krasznahorkai's Seiobo There Below.
George Szirtes was born in Budapest, Hungary in November 1948. He is a British poet and translator from Hungarian into English. Originally from Hungary, he has lived in the UK for most of his life after coming to the country as a refugee at the age of eight. He has won a variety of prizes for his work, most recently the 2004 T. S. Eliot Prize, for his collection Reel and the Bess Hokin Prize in 2008 for poems in Poetry magazine. His translations from Hungarian poetry, fiction and drama have also won numerous awards. Szirtes lives in Wymondham, Norfolk, having retired from teaching at the University of East Anglia in 2013. He is married to the artist Clarissa Upchurch, with whom he ran The Starwheel Press and who has been responsible for most of his book jacket images.
Like a Fading Shadow
Antonio Muñoz Molina
Translated by Camilo A. Ramirez
Published by Tuskar Rock Press
On 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King was murdered by James Earl Ray. Before Ray’s capture and sentencing to 99 years’ imprisonment, he evaded the FBI for two months as he crossed the globe under various aliases. At the heart of his story is Lisbon, where he spent 10 days attempting to acquire an Angolan visa. Aided by the recent declassification of James Earl Ray’s FBI case file, Like a Fading Shadow weaves a taut retelling of Ray’s assassination of King, his time on the run and his eventual capture, tied together with an honest examination of the novelist’s own past.
The judges comment:
“One of the greatest strengths of this book is the way the author has created character – not only of the assassin, which he does in great depth, but there is a character to the city of Lisbon. Perhaps most difficult as a writer, there is a character of himself in two different time-frames. These two characters – who are the budding author, the not-yet-established author, and the then established author – looking back and looking into one another, tell us a great deal about, not only the writing process, but the very way that the intense act of imagination allows fiction to come into being.”
Antonio Muñoz Molina was born in Ubeda, Spain, in January 1956. He is the author of more than a dozen novels, including In the Night of Time (also published by Tuskar Rock), Sepharad, and A Manuscript of Ashes. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards including Spain's National Narrative Prize, the Planeta Prize and the Príncipe de Asturias Prize. He lives in Madrid and New York City.
Camilo A. Ramirez was born in Bogotà, Columbia, in July 1985. He is a literary translator, editor and media strategist based in New York City.
Frankenstein in Baghdad
Translated by Jonathan Wright
Published by Oneworld
From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, the junk dealer Hadi collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and give them a proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed. Hadi soon realizes he's created a monster, one that needs human flesh to survive – first from the guilty, and then from anyone who crosses his path. As the violence escalates and Hadi's acquaintances – a journalist, a government worker and a lonely old woman – become involved, the ‘Whatsitsname’ and the havoc it wreaks assume a magnitude far greater than anyone could have imagined.
The judges comment:
“This is a book that accrues in horrors as you move through it, having started very quietly with a portrait of an old woman who mourns her missing son and is certain he is going to come back. So you have this profound emotional contact with the fact of death and disappearance, and what that does to people. And then this entire city, with its many distinct neighbourhoods, bursts into horror with the bombings and awfulness of war. Saadawi manages to do this and at the same time to give us an overarching sense of irony – how do you get through this? How do people survive? How do they make do? What is this whole horrific process about and where does it take you in the depth of extreme?”
Ahmed Saadawi was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in May 1973. He is a novelist, poet, screenwriter and documentary filmmaker. He is the first Iraqi to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, commonly called the Arabic Booker Prize, which he won in 2014 for Frankenstein in Baghdad. In 2010 he was selected for Beirut39, as one of the 39 best Arab authors under the age of 40. He lives in Baghdad.
Jonathan Wright was born in Hampshire, UK, in December 1953. He studied Arabic at Oxford University. He is the translator of Hassan Blasim's The Corpse Exhibition, which won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2014. He lives in London.
Translated by Jennifer Croft
Published by Fitzcarraldo Editions
Flights is a novel about travel in the 21st century and human anatomy. From the 17th century, we have the story of the real Dutch anatomist Philip Verheyen, who dissected and drew pictures of his own amputated leg, discovering in so doing the Achilles tendon. From the 18th century, we have the story of a North African-born slave turned Austrian courtier stuffed and put on display after his death in spite of his daughter’s ever more desperate protests, as well as the story of Chopin’s heart as it makes the covert journey from Paris to Warsaw, stored in a tightly sealed jar beneath his sister’s skirt. From the present we have the trials and tribulations of a wife accompanying her much older professor husband as he teaches a course on a cruise ship in the Greek islands, the quest of a Polish woman who emigrated to New Zealand as a teenager but must now return to Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and the slow descent into madness of a young husband whose wife and child mysteriously vanished on a vacation on a Croatian island and then appeared again with no explanation.
Through these narratives, interspersed with short bursts of analysis and digressions on topics ranging from travel-sized cosmetics to the Maori, Flights guides the reader beyond the surface layer of modernity and towards the core of the very nature of humankind.
The judges comment:
“Flights is about the contemporary condition of perpetual movement, which is also about never leaving your body, which itself is in movement and is going to die. It’s a book about nomadism; it’s a book about escape, about going from place to place and living in airports. But at the same time you do inhabit a body and therefore we cannot escape the final thing, which is the grim reaper. Meanwhile it is also wonderfully playful and witty and ironic.”
Olga Tokarczuk was born in Sulechow, Poland, in January 1962. In 2015 she received the Brueckepreis and the prestigious annual literary award from Poland's Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, as well as Poland’s highest literary honour, the Nike and the Nike Readers’ Prize. Tokarczuk also received a Nike in 2009 for Flights. She is the author of eight novels, two short-story collections and has been translated into a dozen languages.
Jennifer Croft was born in Oklahoma, USA, in September 1981. She is the recipient of Fulbright, PEN and National Endowment for the Arts grants, as well as the Michael Henry Heim Prize, and her translations from Polish, Spanish and Ukrainian have appeared in the New York Times, n+1, Electric Literature, The New Republic, BOMB, Guernica and elsewhere. She holds a PhD from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She is a founding editor of The Buenos Aires Review.