As the International Booker Prize 2024 shortlist is announced, we’ve pulled together the most interesting facts and trends that have emerged in this year’s selection 

You can watch the International Booker Prize 2024 ceremony, by joining our livestream, hosted by Jack Edwards, at 9:30pm BST on 21 May

Publication date and time: Published

The International Booker Prize shines a light on the best works of literature originally written in languages other than English which have been translated and published in the UK or Ireland. As this year’s shortlist is revealed, we take a closer look at the six remarkable books and the stories behind them; their common themes and their many differences.  

The titles shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2024 are:  

Not a River by Selva Almada, translated from Spanish by Annie McDermott 
Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from German by Michael Hofmann 
The Details by Ia Genberg, translated from Swedish by Kira Josefsson 
Mater 2-10 by Hwang Sok-yong, translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae 
What I’d Rather Not Think About by Jente Posthuma, translated from Dutch by Sarah Timmer Harvey 
Crooked Plow by Itamar Vieira Junior, translated from Portuguese by Johnny Lorenz 


A truly international line-up 

Six countries (Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, South Korea and Sweden) and six languages (Dutch, German, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish) are represented on the shortlist. The authors come from three continents: Asia, Europe and South America. South American authors make up a third of the shortlist; European authors make up half.  

The shortlisted translators represent Australia, Germany, South Korea, Sweden, the United States and the UK. Although the International Booker Prize is awarded to a book published in the UK in English, only one person among the 13 shortlisted authors and translators is British. None of them have been shortlisted for the prize before. 

Countries with prize pedigree 

This is the third year running a South Korean author has been shortlisted, after Cheon Myeong-kwan (Whale, 2023) and Bora Chung (Cursed Bunny, 2022). Hwang Sok-yong (Mater 2-10) is bidding to become the second South Korean winner of the prize since Han Kang (The Vegetarian, 2016). Jente Posthuma (What I’d Rather Not Think About) is bidding to become the second Dutch winner after Lucas Rijneveld (The Discomfort of Evening, 2020). Authors from Germany, Brazil, Sweden and Argentina have never won the prize. 

Selva Almada (Not a River) is the fourth author from Argentina to be shortlisted since 2020, after Claudia Piñeiro (Elena Knows, 2022), Mariana Enríquez (The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, 2021) and Gabriela Cabezón Cámara (The Adventures of China Iron, 2020). 

Jenny Erpenbeck (Kairos) is the first German author to be shortlisted since 2020, when Daniel Kehlmann was shortlisted for Tyll. Erpenbeck was herself longlisted in 2018 for Go, Went, Gone

Authors representing Sweden (Ia Genberg) and Brazil (Itamar Viera Junior) appear on the shortlist for the first time. 

Portrait of author Selva Almada

Fresh voices and established authors 

Itamar Viera Junior – the youngest author on the list, at 44 – is shortlisted for his debut novel. While relatively unknown in the UK until recently, Crooked Plow has been translated into 25 languages and is one of the most acclaimed and commercially successful Brazilian novels of recent years.  

Jente Posthuma is shortlisted for her second novel – her first to be translated into English. Mater 2-10 is Hwang Sok-yong’s ninth book to be translated into English. The oldest author on the shortlist, at 81, Hwang was longlisted for the prize in 2019 for At Dusk. Kairos is Jenny Erpenbeck’s fourth novel, all of which have been translated into English. In 2015, her novel The End of Days, translated by Susan Bernofsky, won the UK’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the precursor of the International Booker Prize.   

Selva Almada is the author of 10 published works since 2003, including collections of poetry and short stories. The winner of the August Prize – Sweden’s Booker Prize equivalent – The Details was a bestseller in Ia Genberg’s homeland and has been translated into 29 languages.  

None of this year’s translators have been shortlisted for the prize before, although Sora Kim-Russell was longlisted in 2019 for her translation of Hwang Sok-yong’s At Dusk. Michael Hofmann, who is shortlisted for his translation of Kairos, was a judge for the 2018 prize

Portrait of author Jente Posthuma

Subject matter and personal experiences 

The shortlist features several books that interrogate personal relationships – and the emotional fallout when they end – as well as the no-less intense relationships between individuals, societies and the places we call home. Many of the books explore what happens when territory is claimed, disturbed and disputed. In very different ways, the six authors look back at the recent past, at divided families and divided nations, to help make sense of the challenges of the present day. 

Several of the works draw on personal experiences. Jenny Erpenbeck grew up in East Berlin, and was a similar age to the young central character in Kairos when communism collapsed. In Mater 2-10, Hwang Sok-yong, born in 1943, tells the complex story of a century of Korean history, from occupation to partition. The book takes inspiration from Hwang’s own involvement in labour and pro-democracy movements and run-ins with the authorities; he spent five years in prison for breaking South Korean security rules and visiting North Korea in 1989. 

Crooked Plow, set among an Afro-Brazilian farming community in one of Brazil’s poorest regions, is informed by the 15 years Itamar Viera Junior spent working in land reform for Brazil’s federal government. Not a River is inspired by the rural Argentinian landscapes where Selva Almada was born and raised. It is, she says, a tribute to the people who inhabit the land of her youth and who were left marginalised and condemned to poverty by government policies. 

Throughout the shortlist, memories, mementos and dreams are at the heart of narratives which set universal and deeply personal human experiences – love, pain and belonging – against a broader backdrop of political turbulence, societal transformation and historical legacies. 

Hwang Sok-yong

Male and female perspectives 

Four female and two male authors make up the shortlist, as well five female and two male translators. Since 2016, when the format of the prize changed to become an annual award for a single work, there have been a third more female authors shortlisted than male authors.    

Indies again 

Five of the books on the 2024 shortlist are published by independents, including two books published by Scribe (Mater 2-10 and What I’d Rather Not Think About). Since 2016, indies have won the prize six times. Of the five shortlisted publishers in 2024 – Scribe, Wildfire (the only non-independent on the list), Charco Press, Granta and Verso – only Granta has won the prize before. Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, the 2016 winner, was published by Portobello Books, an imprint of Granta. 


Portrait of author Itamar Vieira Junior