The Shadow Panel for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize congratulates the official judges on curating a longlist of thirteen fascinating titles, a selection containing many familiar names, but with enough surprise inclusions to keep us on our toes. We are particularly pleased about the geographical spread of the list; with seven of the thirteen books originating from outside Europe, the longlist has a truly global feel, which was certainly not the case with the final Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist.
Of course, as with any subjective selection, there are some areas for discussion. Firstly, we note that female authors are underrepresented, with just four of the thirteen titles written by women. We share the concerns Katy Derbyshire expressed in her piece for The Guardian and would certainly like to see more books by women translated into English. However, we also acknowledge that the figure of 30% is close to the current percentage of translated fiction written by women published in English – and that the percentage among the submitted titles may have been even lower. Unfortunately, with the list of submissions a secret, we are unable to test that suspicion.
Despite the pleasing geographical spread, some areas of the world have missed out. There is nothing from the Arabic-speaking world, and Russian, once again, seems to have fallen out of favour. The largest oversight, however (and one also referred to by Eileen Battersby in her commentary in The Irish Times), is the total omission of books in the Spanish language. In a very strong year for Spanish-language literature in English, we find it surprising (to say the least) that not one of these books made it onto the final list. We would like to mention just a few of these books at this stage to support our point: The Illogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila-Matas; In the Night of Time by Antonio Muñoz Molina; The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse by Iván Repila; Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera; My Documents by Alejandro Zambra; Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías. Of course, some of these titles may not have been submitted (again, we are unable to clarify this), but we do find this oversight puzzling.
Still, despite these issues (and the omission of László Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below, winner of the American-based 2014 Best Translated Book Award, when one of the MBIP judges was on the panel), the Shadow Panel is happy to accept the official judges’ decision and will not be calling any titles in this year. However, as always, we reserve the right to create our own shortlist, one which may diverge from the official decision. We look forward to reading, reviewing and discussing the thirteen longlisted titles – and we hope the official judges will enjoy seeing our take on their decisions.