The official winner of the Man Booker International Prize was announced last night with A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen taking the £50,000 prize split equally between author and translator. The novel about a stand-up comedian going into meltdown on stage has been praised by the judges as “an extraordinary story that soars in the hands of a master storyteller” and “a mesmerising meditation on the opposite forces shaping our lives: humour and sorrow, loss and hope, cruelty and compassion, and how even in the darkest hours we find the courage to carry on.”
With an overlap of four books between the official shortlist and the shadow panel shortlist, myself and other shadow panel members thought there was a good chance that we would choose the same winner three years in a row following The Vegetarian by Han Kang in 2016 and The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck in its IFFP incarnation in 2015. However, ‘A Horse Walks into a Bar’ didn’t even make the cut on the shadow panel shortlist and none of us predicted that it would take the overall prize. The book is certainly striking but as I said in my review, I can see why the tone might come across as too alienating for some readers. It will be interesting to see how a wider readership responds to it following its win.
We can now announce that our shadow panel winner is Compass by Mathias Enard translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell. While I said in my review that it was a bit dry for my personal taste, it is undoubtedly ambitious in scope and it is great to see recognition for independent publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions on the official shortlist and now as our shadow panel winner.
It’s worth mentioning that The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw came a very, very close second in our shadow panel deliberations. It received the same number of votes in the final round of voting but with nobody willing to change their top choice, we ended up using the scores from the first round of voting to decide our winner with ‘The Unseen’ being pipped to the post by just 0.1 points when averages were calculated. Regular readers of my blog will know that ‘The Unseen’ was one of my favourite recent discoveries and my preferred choice on a very strong shortlist.
As ever, I have really enjoyed participating in the shadow panel this year. Many thanks to Tony and Stu for coordinating our discussions once again and congratulations to David Grossman, Jessica Cohen, Mathias Enard and Charlotte Mandell for their respective official and unofficial wins!
Have you read ‘A Horse Walks into a Bar’? Do you think it is a worthy winner?
12 responses to “The Man Booker International Prize Winner 2017”
haven’t read it, probably never will but David Grossman is a fantastic writer, so congrats to him!
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I enjoyed the book. it was definitely different from anything I had read before, but I am glad it one… though I only read 2 from the shortlist 🤷♀️
Yes, very different indeed! I don’t think I have read anything else quite like it.
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Won* I can’t even spell today.
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I loved A Horse Walks Into a Bar! I found it so compelling. I only read 4 of the shortlisted books but enjoyed 2 others I read – The Unseen and Fever Dream, and would have been happy for either of them to win, although A Horse Walks Into a Bar was my favourite.
The Unseen and Fever Dream were my two favourites. I didn’t think A Horse Walks into a Bar would have very wide appeal but clearly I was wrong!
A book about a stand-up comedian going into meltdown on stage? SOLD.
Part of my Book Bingo challenge this year was to read a Booker winner. Why not the 2017 winner? 🙂
Thanks for the heads up! I’m really excited about this.
Hope you enjoy it!
I listened to To the End of the Land by Grossman, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I really don’t feel attracted by this one
Interesting, I haven’t read any of his other books but it seems like A Horse Walks into a Bar is something of a departure from his other work.
I am convinced that if a book isn’t satire (or filled with angry accusation) the judges at Man Booker will not choose it for a win. They picked Paul Beatty’s The Sellout for the Man Booker Prize last summer, and now this vitriol for the Man Booker International Prize. I’m not pleased.
What happened to lovely writing on a subject worth thinking about? I cannot get The Unseen out of my head, nor Compass, or even Judas, the latter of which seemed to make its point quite well without bashing the reader over the head.
Yes, it’s odd given that each prize has a different judging panel… I’m not sure AHWIAB will be a winner which will be remembered fondly in years to come.