From fresh voices to previous winners, here’s everything you need to know about the 13 books in contention for this year’s International Booker Prize

Written by Paul Davies

Publication date and time: Published

Once again, it’s time to add 13 new titles to your to-be-read list, as the International Booker Prize 2024 longlist is announced.  
The 13 books chosen by this year’s judges represent the very best in translated fiction, published in the English language in the UK and Ireland. The titles are: 

Not a River by Selva Almada, translated by Annie McDermott  
Simpatía by Rodrigo Blanco Calderon, translated by Noel Hernández González and Daniel Hahn  
Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Michael Hofmann  
The Details by Ia Genberg, translated by Kira Josefsson
White Nights by Urszula Honek, translated by Kate Webster  
Mater 2-10 by Hwang Sok-yong, translated by Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae  
A Dictator Calls by Ismail Kadare, translated by John Hodgson  
The Silver Bone by Andrey Kurkov, translated by Boris Dralyuk
What I’d Rather Not Think About by Jente Posthuma, translated by Sarah Timmer Harvey  
Lost on Me by Veronica Raimo, translated by Leah Janeczko  
The House on Via Gemito by Domenico Starnone, translated by Oonagh Stransky
Crooked Plow by Itamar Vieira Junior, translated by Johnny Lorenz  
Undiscovered by Gabriela Wiener, translated by Julia Sanches

If some of the books and authors are unfamiliar, don’t worry: read on for 13 things you need to know about the International Booker Prize 2024 longlist. 

Group photo of the International Booker Prize 2024 Judges; William Kentridge, Natalie Diaz, Eleanor Wachtel, Romesh Gunesekera and Aaron Robertson..

1. Latin American voices 

The list heralds a second ‘boom’ in Latin American fiction, with writers representing Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Venezuela. Our judges are far from alone in being impressed by the quality of writing coming from that continent. When asked last year why Ireland has the best writers, after four Irish authors appeared on the Booker Prize 2023 longlist, the eventual winner Paul Lynch said: ‘Can I let you into a secret? I think South America has the best writers.’  

2. Lots of languages 

Ten languages are represented. Three of the longlisted authors originally wrote their nominated books in Spanish: Peruvian writer Gabriela Wiener, Selva Almada from Argentina, and Rodrigo Blanco Calderón from Venezuela. Two books, Lost on Me by Veronica Raimo and The House on Via Gemito by Domenico Starnone, were originally written in Italian. The other original languages represented are Swedish (The Details), German (Kairos), Albanian (A Dictator Calls), Portuguese (Crooked Plow), Dutch (What I’d Rather Not Think About), Korean (Mater 2-10), Polish (White Nights) and Russian (The Silver Bone).   

3. Fiction in all forms 

The list represents the very best international fiction, in a variety of forms. There are love stories (Kairos), funny stories (Lost on Me), heartbreaking stories (What I’d Rather Not Think About) and short stories (White Nights). There is magical realism (The Silver Bone, Crooked Plow) and autofiction (Lost on Me, Undiscovered). There are the first books in trilogies (The Silver Bone) and the third (Not a River). There are books that span multiple generations (Mater 2-10) and ones constructed around a three-minute telephone conversation (A Dictator Calls). There are books written by poets (White Nights, A Dictator Calls) and translated by poets (Kairos, Crooked Plow). Leah Janeczko, translator of Lost on Me, is not a poet but writes English song lyrics for Italian bands. 

Portrait of author Rodrigo Blanco Calderón

4. History books 

History – both personal (Undiscovered) and national (The Silver Bone, Mater 2-10) – features prominently in several books, as do oppressive and tyrannical regimes (Kairos, Simpatía, A Dictator Calls) and the shadow of colonialism. In some cases, these accounts may be influenced by personal experiences: in 1993, Hwang Sok yong was sentenced to seven years in prison for an unauthorised trip to North Korea to promote artistic exchange between the two Koreas. Ismail Kadare worked for many years under the watchful eye of the Albanian Communist regime before claiming political asylum in France in 1990. Andrey Kurkov’s work has been banned in Russia since 2014. 

5. Family ties 

Many of the books are rooted in and explore different aspects of family life, from the relationship between fathers and sons (The House on Via Gemito) to daughters and mothers (Lost on Me), from separated twins (What I’d Rather Not Think About) to orphanhood (Simpatía). 

6. New names and big reputations 

While many of the books – and authors – are little known in the UK, some have been bestsellers in their home countries. Veronica Raimo’s Lost on Me sold 100,000 copies in Italy. The Details by Ia Genberg was an instant Swedish bestseller, and rights have sold in 29 territories around the world. Andrey Kurkov is no stranger to the bestseller lists: his 1996 novel Death and the Penguin has been translated into 30 languages. At least three of the authors on the list have been described in the media as their home countries’ greatest living writers: Kurkov, Kadare and Hwang.

Portrait of author Veronica Raimo

7. A previous winner 

Should he win, Ismail Kadare would become the first author to win the International Booker Prize twice. He was the winner of the inaugural award (then known as the Man Booker International Prize) in 2005. At the time, the prize was awarded for a body of work rather than an individual book. Kadare was longlisted for the current version of the prize in 2017, for The Traitor’s Niche

8. Previous nominees 

In addition to Kadare, three more authors have been longlisted previously for the International Booker Prize. Andrey Kurkov was longlisted in 2023 for Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv, Hwang Sok-yong was longlisted in 2019 for At Dusk and Jenny Erpenbeck was longlisted in 2018 for Go, Went, Gone

9. Translators with pedigree 

Like Hwang’s Mater 2-10, At Dusk was translated by Sora Kim-Russell, one of four translators on the 2024 longlist list previously nominated for the prize. The others are Julia Sanches, shortlisted in 2023 for her translation of Eva Baltasar’s Boulder, John Hodgson, longlisted in 2017 for his translation of Kadare’s The Traitor’s Niche, and Daniel Hahn, shortlisted in 2016 for his translation of A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa. Hahn was also a judge for the 2017 prize. Michael Hofmann, longlisted this year for his translation of Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, was a judge in 2018. 

 Ismail Kadare

10. Indies again 

The list is once again dominated by independent publishers (nine of them), including two, Seven Stories Press and MTO Press, that are nominated for the first time. White Nights by Urszula Honek is published by MTO Press, a UK-based social enterprise publishing international literature in English translation written by women and non-binary authors, which is committed to donating at least 50% of its profits to various causes supported by its authors.  

11. Authors, young and not-so-young

There are over 50 years between the oldest and youngest writers on the list: at 88, Ismail Kadare (born 1936) is the oldest author, while Urszula Honek is the youngest, aged 37 (born 1987).  

12. Stories old and new 

Honek was a teenager when the original language version of Domenico Starnone’s The House on Via Gemito won Italy’s most prestigious literary prize, the Strega, in 2001. It is the oldest book on the list. Starnone has published 12 books since Via Gemito was first released. 

13. Other awards 

Besides Starnone, many of the other longlisted authors and translators have been recognised by literary prizes in the past. Hwang Sok yong is the recipient of Korea’s highest literary prizes, including the Manhae Literary Prize, and France’s Emile Guimet Prize for Asian Literature. Ia Genberg won the August Prize 2022 and the Aftonbladet Literary Prize 2023, while Jenny Erpenbeck won the  Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2014. Ismail Kadare won the Jerusalem Prize in 2015, the Park Kyong-ni Prize in 2019 and the Neustadt Prize in 2020. Itamar Viera Junior’s Crooked Plow won the 2018 LeYa Award in Portugal, while Jente Posthuma’s What I’d Rather Not Think About was shortlisted for the European Union Prize for Literature 2021. Selva Almada won the Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book Award in 2019. Gabriela Wiener won Peru’s National Journalism Award for her investigative report on violence against women.  

Portrait of author Urszula Honek