The longlist for the Man Booker International Prize is due to be announced on Wednesday 15th March. I am on the shadow panel again this year and have been thinking about which books could make the cut.
The pool of fiction in translation published in the UK is smaller than the huge number of books which are eligible for awards like the Man Booker Prize and Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. However, thanks to consistent championing by booksellers, bloggers and publishers helping to steadily raise the profile of translated fiction, it doesn’t actually make the predictions easier (which is ultimately a good thing, of course). I also have no knowledge of which books have actually been submitted for consideration so my choices are purely speculative.
As with my other predictions posts, I have been considering books in terms of my personal preferences alongside other possibilities. Based on what I have read over the past few months, I have five stand-out preferences which I would like to see on the longlist.
The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis (translated from the French by Michael Lucey) – this powerful autobiographical novel explores social exclusion in modern France and follows the story of a gay teenager living in a village in Picardy.
The Accusation by Bandi (translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith) – as well as novels, short story collections are also eligible for the MBIP and I think this collection by a pseudonymous North Korean author stands a very good chance of being longlisted. It’s also notable that Deborah Smith won the MBIP last year for her translation of The Vegetarian by Han Kang.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell) – this Argentinian novella is weird, unsettling and definitely not for everyone, but I wonder if its small independent publisher Oneworld can continue its prizewinning streak following two consecutive Man Booker Prize wins for ‘The Sellout’ by Paul Beatty in 2016 and ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ by Marlon James in 2015.
The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn (translated from the Norwegian by Rosie Hedger) – I really enjoyed this atmospheric and tense literary thriller. It’s a memorable and ambiguous slow-burner which has been a word-of-mouth success.
The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami (translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell) – this was one of my Women in Translation Month reads last August. Like Strange Weather in Tokyo which was shortlisted for the IFFP in 2014, it is a surreal tale about the owner and employees working in a second-hand goods shop. I have yet to read Kawakami’s recently published collection ‘Record of a Night Too Brief’ translated by Lucy North which could also be in the running.
Other eligible books I have read in recent months:
Peirene Press may put forward Her Father’s Daughter by Marie Sizun (translated from the French by Adriana Hunter) which is a very affecting portrayal of a young girl whose father returns to France after being held prisoner during the Second World War. I have yet to read ‘The Empress and the Cake’ by Linda Stift (translated from the Austrian German by Jamie Bulloch) which is also eligible. Peirene Press has had a book longlisted or shortlisted for the IFFP or MBIP every year since 2011 so there’s a reasonable chance either of these titles could be recognised.
The Winterlings by Cristina Sánchez-Andrade (translated from the Spanish by Sam Rutter) and Cry, Mother Spain by Lydia Salvayre (translated from the French by Ben Faccini) both address the Spanish Civil War in original ways.
Authors and translators from last year’s MBIP longlist could make it a second year running. I enjoyed reading but have not yet reviewed The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler (translated from the German by Charlotte Collins) while translations of ‘The Explosion Chronicles’ by Yan Lianke and ‘Beauty is a Wound’ by Eka Kurniawan have also recently been published.
More eligible books which I have yet to read:
The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera (translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman) – I have read but not yet reviewed ‘Signs Preceding the End of the World’ by the same author and translator which was my first foray into Mexican fiction and won the Best Translated Book Award last year. Herrera’s second book to be translated into English is said to be similarly short, sharp and violent.
Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón (translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb) – I have read some very strong reviews of this novella about a gay teenager living in Reykjavik during a Spanish flu outbreak shortly before Iceland became independent in 1918.
Ties by Domenico Starnone (translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri) – ‘Ties’ is said to be a response to ‘The Days of Abandonment’ by Elena Ferrante which is especially significant given that Starnone’s wife is said to be the pseudonymous author. Lahiri has previously been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and her work as a translator since relocating to Rome could be recognised by its sister prize.
I’m conscious that my choices lean quite heavily towards European fiction whereas I hope the actual longlist is more geographically diverse. Which books would you like to see on the longlist this year?