International Booker Prize 2023: what our judges said about the longlist
Wondering which of the International Booker Prize 2023 longlisted titles to read first? We asked our judges to summarise each book - and say what they loved about them
We believe there is a natural union between the best international fiction and international film, so we asked our friends at MUBI to recommend six great movies to complement this year’s International Booker shortlist
For a 30-day free trial of MUBI to watch the six films below, click here.
The International Booker Prize celebrates the best fiction translated into English from other languages, helping bring fresh voices and experiences from other cultures to the widest possible audience.
The perception of translated fiction – like the perception of foreign-language films – is changing, with both moving towards the centre of the cultural conversation. In the UK, research shows that the audience for fiction in translation is getting younger, with around half of all translated fiction titles now bought by people under the age of 35. As Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the International Booker Prize, said recently: ‘This is part of a far wider cultural trend in which more and more films, TV series and music originating in languages other than English have become part of the global mainstream. Young people are curious, adventurous and engaged – and have a very porous sense of national borders.’
We believe there is also a natural symbiosis between international fiction and international film, and between the readers and viewers of both. We therefore want to encourage people who love translated fiction to explore more global cinema, and vice versa, expanding their cultural horizons.
That’s why we asked our friends at MUBI – the global streaming service, production company and film distributor dedicated to elevating great cinema – to recommend six films from its roster of international movies to complement each of the books on our shortlist, with each film reflecting the themes or tone of the relevant book.
We’ve also teamed up with MUBI, Foyles and London’s The Garden Cinema on an intimate live event on Friday, May 26 at 8pm. The Garden Cinema, a new independent cinema in the heart of London, will host a special live event: an intimate Q&A featuring 2023 International Booker Prize Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel, hosted by writer and editor Sarah Shaffi. The Q&A will be followed by a screening of One Fine Morning, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve (France, Germany, 2022), which MUBI has paired with this year’s winning nove, Time Shelter. Tickets are available here.
Working as a cook on a merchant ship, a woman comes to know and love Samsa, who gives her the nickname ‘Boulder’. When the couple decide to move to Reykjavik together, Samsa announces that she wants to have a child. Boulder is less enthused but doesn’t know how to say no - and so finds herself dragged along on a journey that feels as thankless as it is alien.
If you enjoyed reading Boulder, you should watch…
Ema, directed by Pablo Larraín (Chile, 2019)
Ema is a magnetic and impulsive dancer in a reggaeton troupe. Her toxic marriage to choreographer Gastón is beyond repair, following a decision to give up on their adopted child Polo. She sets out on a mission to get him back, not caring who she’ll need to fight, seduce or destroy to make it happen.
What MUBI said: ‘Pablo Larraín returns with a dazzling, intoxicating look at sex, power, family and chaos in modern-day Chile. With an electrifying score by Nicolas Jaar, Ema is a whirlwind of no-holds-barred anarchy, anchored by searing turns from rising star Mariana Di Girolamo and Gael García Bernal.’
Set in a remote village in South Korea, Whale follows the lives of three linked characters: Geumbok, an extremely ambitious woman who has been chasing an indescribable thrill ever since she first saw a whale crest in the ocean; her mute daughter, Chunhui, who communicates with elephants; and a one-eyed woman who controls honeybees with a whistle.
If you enjoyed reading Whale, you should watch…
Arabian Nights Volume 1, The Restless One, directed by Miguel Gomes (Portugal, France, 2015)
Every night Scheherazade tells King Shahryar unfinished tales to continue them the following night, hence defying his promise of murdering his new wives after their wedding night. But these are not the stories in the book, they are based on what happened in Portugal at the production of the film.
What MUBI said: ‘Three volumes, three unidentified filmic objects of uncommon beauty, and three instant classics of contemporary cinema. Miguel Gomes’ outstanding masterpiece takes over. A vision of modern Portugal told with the inspiration of the timeless folk tales of Arabian Nights.’
Baby Pascal is strikingly beautiful, brown in complexion, with grey-green eyes like the sea. But where does he come from? Is he really the child of God? So goes the rumour, and many signs throughout his life will cause this theory to gain ground. Pascal sets off in search of his origins, trying to understand the meaning of his mission. Will he be able to change the fate of humanity?
If you enjoyed reading The Gospel According to the New World, you should watch…
Petite Maman, directed by Céline Sciamma (France, 2021)
After the death of her beloved grandmother, eight-year-old Nelly meets a strangely familiar girl her own age in the woods. Instantly forming a connection with this mysterious new friend, Nelly embarks on a fantastical journey of discovery which helps her come to terms with this newfound loss.
What MUBI said: ‘Following the international triumph of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma returns to the mysteries of childhood with this spellbinding adventure in imagination. Delicately playful, and tinged with melancholy, Petite Maman weaves a spectral fairytale from a child’s-eye view on love and loss.’
Amidst the political bickering of the inhabitants of the Residence for Students from Côte d’Ivoire and the ever-changing landscape of French immigration policy, two generations of Ivoirians attempt to make their way as undocumented workers, taking shifts as security guards at a flour mill.
If you enjoyed reading Standing Heavy, you should watch…
Limbo, directed by Ben Sharrock (United Kingdom, 2020)
An offbeat observation of the refugee experience. On a fictional remote Scottish island, a group of new arrivals await the results of their asylum claims. Among them is Omar, a young Syrian musician burdened by the weight of his grandfather’s oud, which he has carried all the way from his homeland.
What MUBI said: ‘Announcing the arrival of a major homegrown talent in filmmaker Ben Sharrock, Limbo is a deadpan delight bursting with humanity. Illuminating the hopes and hardships of the refugee experience, this wry, poignant, and bracingly funny ode to the kindness of strangers is the British film of the year.’
A ‘clinic for the past’ offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers: each floor reproduces a decade in minute detail, transporting patients back in time. But an increasing number of healthy people seek refuge at the clinic, hoping to escape the horrors of modern life.
If you enjoyed reading Time Shelter, you should watch…
One Fine Morning, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve (France, Germany, 2022)
In Paris, a young, widowed mother juggles her job as a translator with caring both for her young daughter and her elderly father, who suffers from a degenerative illness. Her life is further complicated when she embarks on a passionate affair with an old friend in an unhappy marriage.
What MUBI said: ‘As sensual as the first rays of summer, Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest triumph journeys through the threshold of love and loss with exquisite tenderness. Delivering a career-best performance that aches with vulnerability and strength, Léa Seydoux stuns in this profound portrayal of contemporary womanhood.’
Alina and Laura are independent women in their thirties, neither of whom have built their future around the prospect of a family. Laura has taken the drastic decision to be sterilised, but as time goes by Alina becomes drawn to the idea of becoming a mother. When complications arise in Alina’s pregnancy and Laura becomes attached to her neighbour’s son, both women are forced to reckon with the complexity of their emotions.
If you enjoyed reading Still Born, you should watch…
Lamb, directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson (Iceland, Sweden, 2021)
A couple living alone on a remote farm in Iceland find their quiet existence shaken by the astonishing discovery of a mysterious newborn amongst their sheep. They decide to raise the child as their own, but soon face the consequences of defying the will of nature.
What MUBI said: ‘Precision-timed in revealing its uncanny mysteries, it’s little wonder that Valdimar Jóhannsson’s nightmarishly eerie debut took the Prize of Originality at Cannes. Led by a magnificent Noomi Rapace, this genre-defying fable stages a cloven reckoning with the psychological landscapes of motherhood.