by Zou Jingzhi
Translated by Jeremy Tiang
The International Booker Prize 2023 longlist has been announced. It features work from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, the oldest writer ever to be nominated, three writers who appear in English for the first time, and books translated from 11 languages
The panel of judges is chaired by the prize-winning French-Moroccan novelist, Leïla Slimani. The panel also includes Uilleam Blacker, one of Britain’s leading literary translators from Ukrainian; Tan Twan Eng, the Booker-shortlisted Malaysian novelist; Parul Sehgal, staff writer and critic at the New Yorker; and Frederick Studemann, Literary Editor of the Financial Times.
The 2023 judges are looking for the best work of international fiction translated into English, selected from entries published in the UK or Ireland between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023. The books, authors and translators the prize celebrates offer readers a window onto the world and the opportunity to experience the lives of people from different cultures.
The shortlist of six books will be announced on Tuesday, April 18. The winning title will be announced at a ceremony at the Sky Garden in London on May 23, 2023.
The longlist includes:
Through literature we experience the fact that we are, at the end of the day, just human beings with the same emotions
The International Booker Prize, which highlights fiction from all five continents, translated into English, continues to build in global importance every year.
The winners’ prize purse is £50,000; £25,000 for the author and £25,000 for the translator (or divided equally between multiple translators). There will be a prize of £5,000 for each of the shortlisted titles: £2,500 for the author and £2,500 for the translator (or divided equally between multiple translators).
Leïla Slimani, Chair of the International Booker Prize 2023 judges, comments:
‘Through literature we experience the fact that we are, at the end of the day, just human beings. We cry the same. We are moved by the same things. We are all afraid, we all fall in love and we have the same emotions. And this is the point of translation, that all over the world we can understand an emotion.
‘What was very rewarding about this experience was reading books from all over the world, with an extraordinary variety of form and content. Each of the judges had different tastes and that is what we have tried to reflect in this list. It celebrates the variety and diversity of literary production today, the different ways in which the novel can be viewed. We wanted to give the reader the chance to discover this and to find something that will move or disturb them.
‘The list is also a celebration of the power of language and of authors who wanted to push formal enquiry as far as possible. We wanted to celebrate literary ambition, panache, originality and of course, through this, the talent of translators who have been able to convey all of this with great skill.’
Fiammetta Rocco, Administrator of the International Booker Prize, adds:
‘To read a book translated from another language is to embark on a global adventure. The judges looked closely not just at what the writers and their translators were telling us about the world we live in, but also at how they told us. The panel talked about ideas and emotion in fiction, about form, structure, originality, poetry, ethics, character and the importance of humour.
‘The longlist for the International Booker Prize 2023 leaps from Mexico to Sweden, from Norway to South Korea, from China to Guadeloupe, from Côte d’Ivoire to Ukraine. Through fable and myth, stories and sagas, it proves that reading has no borders.’
Original languages from which the books have been translated
Authors published in English for the first time
Years between the youngest and oldest authors
Translators who have been previously nominated for the prize
Pages in the shortest book on the longlist
Original languages represented on the longlist for the first time
Books read by the judges before selecting their longlist
The age of the youngest translator on the longlist
GauZ’, Zou Jingzhi and Amanda Svensson are nominated for their first works to appear in English.
Three of the translators on the longlist have been nominated for the prize before. Katy Derbyshire was longlisted in 2017 for her translation of Clemens Meyer’s Bricks and Mortar. Frank Wynne was shortlisted in 2018 for his translation of Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes and Nichola Smalley was longlisted in 2021 for her translation of Andrzej Tichý’s Wretchedness.
Novelists Eva Baltasar, Georgi Gospodinov and Zou Jingzhi, and translator Frank Wynne, are also published poets.
Eva Baltasar, who writes in Spanish and Catalan, has published ten volumes of poetry to widespread acclaim and her debut novel, Permafrost, received the 2018 Premi Llibreter from Catalan booksellers and was shortlisted for France’s 2020 Prix Médicis for Best Foreign Book.
Alongside his work as a novelist, Cheon Myeong-kwan is also a screenwriter and film director.
Maryse Condé, born in Guadeloupe and described by the judges as ‘the great voice of the Caribbean’, dictated The Gospel According to the New World to Richard Philcox, her husband and translator, having lost her sight. At age 86, she is the oldest writer to ever be longlisted for the prize.
Ivorian author, editor and photographer GauZ’, moved to Paris as an undocumented student, working as a security guard before returning to Côte d’Ivoire. His novels have won multiple awards, including Le Prix des libraires Gibert Joseph, Prix Éthiophile, and Black Manoo.
Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov’s works have been translated in 25 languages and have been shortlisted for more than a dozen international prizes - including the PEN Literary Award for Translation.
Vigdis Hjorth is the author of over a dozen prize-winning and best-selling novels. Will and Testament was longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature and won the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature and the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize.
Andrey Kurkov is best known for his novel Death and the Penguin, which has been translated into more than 30 languages and was an international bestseller. In the past year he has been an outspoken critic of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Like many Ukrainian writers, he has vowed to stop writing in Russian in response to the invasion.
Laurent Mauvignier is the author of 13 novels and has won 11 literary prizes. He has also written several scripts for TV and film.
Clemens Meyer was longlisted for Bricks and Mortar in in 2017, and is now longlisted for his debut novel, originally published in German in 2006. Like GauZ’, he once worked as a security guard.
In 2015, Indian author Perumal Murugan declared himself ‘dead’ and announced his retirement from writing following protests, litigation and the burning of his book Maadhorubaagan by caste-based groups. At a court case in 2016 centred on the book, the judge ruled: ‘Let the author be resurrected to what he is best at. Write.’ For Murugan, the statement was both ‘a command and a benediction’ to resume writing.
Guadalupe Nettel grew up between Mexico and France and her work has been translated into more than 15 languages and has appeared in publications such as Granta, El País, The New York Times and La Repubblica.
At 35, Amanda Svensson is the youngest author on the longlist. She is also a successful translator, and is the Swedish translator of works by Booker Prize shortlisted author Ali Smith.
Zou Jingzhi is highly regarded as a fiction writer, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright. Along with being a member of the Chinese Writers Association, he is a resident writer of the Beijing Writers Association.
Leïla Slimani (Chair) is the bestselling author of Lullaby (published in the US as The Perfect Nanny), one of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018, for which she became the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt. Her first novel, Adèle, about a sex-addicted woman in Paris, won the Mamounia Prize for the best book by a Moroccan author written in French and inspired her non-fiction book Sex and Lies: True Stories of Women’s Intimate Lives in the Arab World. A journalist and frequent commentator on women’s and human rights, Slimani spearheaded a campaign – for which she won the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom – to help Moroccan women speak out against their country’s ‘unfair and obsolete laws.’ She is President Emmanuel Macron’s personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture. Born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981, she now lives in Lisbon with her French husband and their two young children. Her most recent novel is In The Country Of Others, the first instalment of a planned trilogy fictionalising the author’s family history.
Uilleam Blacker is Associate Professor of Ukrainian and East European Culture at University College London. He is the author of Memory, the City and the Legacy of World War II in East Central Europe (Routledge). He has translated the work of many Ukrainian authors, including Oleg Sentsov’s short story collection Life Went On Anyway (Deep Vellum). His translations of novels by Taras Prokhasko and Maik Yohansen will be published in the Harvard Library of Ukrainian Literature series. His translations have appeared in many anthologies and journals, including The White Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, and Words Without Borders. He has written for The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement and The Literary Review, among others. In 2022, he was Paul Celan Translation Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.
Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang, Malaysia, and grew up in Kuala Lumpur. He is of Straits Chinese descent and speaks English, Penang Hokkien, and Malay, as well as some Cantonese. He studied law at University of London and was an intellectual property lawyer in Kuala Lumpur before becoming a full-time author. His debut novel, The Gift of Rain, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007.
The Garden of Evening Mists, his second novel, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012, more about which can be read here. It also won the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2012 and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction in 2013, as well as being shortlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Prize in 2014. It has been adapted into an award-winning film. His novels have been translated into more than 15 languages. His third novel, The House of Doors, will be published in spring 2023. He has a first-dan ranking in aikido and divides his time between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Cape Town, South Africa.
Parul Sehgal was raised in India, Hungary, the Philippines and the United States. She is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Previously, she was a book critic at the New York Times, where she also worked as a senior editor and columnist. She has won awards from the New York Press Club and the National Book Critics Circle for her criticism. She teaches in the graduate creative writing programme at New York University.
Frederick Studemann is Literary Editor of the Financial Times. He joined the FT in 1996 as Berlin correspondent since when he has held a number of roles across the paper, including Assistant News Editor, UK Correspondent, European News Editor, Comment & Analysis Editor and Assistant Editor. He was a founding member of FT Deutschland where he ran the features and weekend section. The son of restless, itinerant parents, he spent his early years in Cork and Dublin, before moving to London, with later postings in Berlin, the Soviet Union, Greece and Austria.
The Booker Prizes exist to reward the finest in fiction. The symmetrical relationship between the Booker Prize and the International Booker Prize ensures that the Booker honours fiction on a global basis: world-class fiction is highlighted by the prizes for English-speaking readers, whether that work was originally written in English (the Booker Prize) or translated into English (the International Booker Prize).
The International Booker Prize began life in 2005 as the Man Booker International Prize. It was initially a biennial prize for a body of work, and there was no stipulation that the work should be written in a language other than English. Early winners of the Man Booker International Prize therefore include Alice Munro, Lydia Davis and Philip Roth, as well as Ismail Kadare and Laszlo Krasznahorkai.
In 2015, after the rules of the original Booker Prize expanded to allow writers of any nationality to enter - as long as their books were written in English and published in the UK - the International Prize evolved to become the mirror image of the English-language prize. Since then it has been awarded annually for a single book, written in another language and translated into English.
The Man Group continued to sponsor both prizes until 2019, when Crankstart became the funder, and the prize names reverted to the familiar ‘Booker’ name alone.
This prize aims to encourage more reading of quality fiction from all over the world, and has already had an impact on those statistics in the UK. Novels and collections of short stories are both eligible.