Although I’m not participating in the shadow panel this year, I have been thinking about possible contenders for this year’s Man Booker International Prize longlist which is due to be announced tomorrow. My predictions last year were very wide off the mark – maybe this year I will manage more than one…
I have read a handful of eligible titles in recent months but I have only reviewed a couple of them on my blog:
Women Who Blow on Knots by Ece Temelkuran (translated from the Turkish by Alexander Dawe) – this is a book which has garnered increasing attention. I’m less sure about its shortlist chances – the plotting is a bit all over the place – but its topical themes contrast strongly with what is still likely to be a longlist dominated by male authors.
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami (translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen) – short story collections are eligible as well as novels, although none have been longlisted so far. I enjoyed Murakami’s latest offering a lot and a place on the longlist would certainly help boost the profile of the Prize.
Other eligible books I have read with varying degrees of enjoyment are:
The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells (translated from the German by Charlotte Collins) – I haven’t reviewed this on my blog but I liked this novel a lot. It won the European Prize for Literature and is about loneliness in different forms including bereavement, unrequited love and memory loss. The storytelling is conventional compared to some of the more experimental fiction in translation out there but I found this novel very affecting.
Last year’s longlist featured some pretty hefty novels but this year’s shadow panel might have more time on their hands if Such Small Hands by Andres Barba (translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman) or You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann (translated from the German by Ross Benjamin) are nominated instead. They are both very short books with supernatural themes, although I think Barba’s novella could well be this year’s Fever Dream and has a stronger chance of being longlisted than Kehlmann.
The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet (translated from the French by Sam Taylor) is a postmodern novel about the death of Roland Barthes which I read last year. It started off quite well but I think French intellectual satire is “untranslatable” to some degree – maybe not in a directly literal sense, but certainly in terms of appreciation and enjoyment for anyone who lacks a PhD in linguistics as most normal people do. Perhaps the judging panel will see something in it that I clearly missed.
Elsewhere, there are many other possible contenders I haven’t read yet:
Lullaby by Leila Slimani (translated from the French by Sam Taylor) – this Parisian-set thriller about a murderous nanny won the Prix Goncourt in France and is now causing a stir elsewhere. The premise sounds very interesting although I wonder if its genre connotations might lessen its longlist chances somewhat.
Previous winners (both novelists and their translators) of the International Foreign Fiction Prize and the MBIP could be in contention. The White Book by Han Kang (translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith) is a very slim volume but despite its length, it sounds like it isn’t short of emotional heft and has recently been longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize too. Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky) is about refugees in Berlin. The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk (translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap) has also received strong reviews.
I enjoy reading Peirene Press books and Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena (translated from the Latvian by Margita Gailitis) or Dance by the Canal by Kerstin Hensel (translated from the German by Jan Calleja) both set during the Cold War are other possibilities. Another small press, Fitzcarraldo, may repeat their success last year with Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft) a novel which follows a restless woman travelling the world.
Which books do you think should be on the longlist?