The Man Booker International Prize 2013 won by Lydia Davis as her inventive, carefully-crafted and hard to categorise works saw off the challenge from nine other contenders from around the world.

Lydia Davis is also known for her work as a translator of French literature and philosophy, most notably of Marcel Proust and Gustave Flaubert. Her translations led her to be named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government. ‘Translating is often rather like doing an elaborate word puzzle (and I have always liked those),’ she says. ‘But when the result can be one lovely sentence after another about the landscape of the walks around Combray or how Aunt Leonie manages her illness and her religious observances, then there is a great sense of satisfaction in the work.’

The Prize, worth £60,000, is awarded for an achievement in fiction on the world stage and Davis’s achievements are writ large despite often using startlingly few words (some of her longer stories only stretch to two or three pages). Her work has the brevity and precision of poetry. 

 

Her writings fling their lithe arms wide to embrace many a kind. Just how to categorise them? They have been called stories but could equally be miniatures, anecdotes, essays, jokes, parables, fables, texts, aphorisms or even apophthegms, prayers or simply observations.

The 2013 judges

Background

Between 2005 - 2015, the Man Booker International Prize recognised one writer for their achievement in fiction.

Worth £60,000, the prize was awarded every two years to a living author who had published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language.

The winner was chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel and there were no submissions from publishers.

The Man Booker International Prize was different from the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction in that it highlighted one writer’s overall contribution to fiction on the world stage. In focusing on overall literary excellence, the judges considered a writer’s body of work rather than a single novel.