MBIP 2016 Longlist – The Official Shadow Panel Response

MBI2016 Logo RGB pinkThe 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.

22 thoughts on “MBIP 2016 Longlist – The Official Shadow Panel Response

    1. Kaggsy – Yes… It didn’t jump out at me immediately, but the more we discussed surprising omissions, the more Spanish-language titles we stumbled across😉

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  1. I know I’m biased concerning Krasznahorkai’s writing but do you think that he’s missing because he’s presumed too difficult for the mythical “general reader” to get so the jury just discount his works

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    1. Gary – I have a feeling that it has more to do with his recent success, having taken out the 2013 & 2014 BTBA and the 2015 MBI author prize. Perhaps they want to spread the love around (although there’s definitely something to your idea too…).

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        1. Birne – Who knows? Despite all this hypothesising, there’s not a lot we can do but read the books they’ve chosen and go from there😉

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  2. How fortuitous that most are easily available in the US so I can read along with you. As with the regular Booker long list I plan to read the ones first that I think probably WON’t make the short list, since it would be difficult to stay enthused about them after they are out of the running.
    I think I have linked in to all of the shadow jury members’ blogs and have enjoyed reading about what you all think SHOULD have made the list but didn’t. Looking forward to all your reviews. Now Back to reading!

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      1. Ha! Good question. I guess I meant those I didn’t think I would like but that proved to be a fallacy….started with the Aqualusa and Kerangal and thought both were great afterwords. Hope the rest is of the list is filled with such happy surprises!

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  3. but you are not suggesting adding a title translated from the Spanish to your own longlist. So, does it mean that in fact you think none would have been worthy of the prize this year anyway? Or simply because reading 13 titles is already plenty!

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    1. Emma – Last year, there was pretty much a public outcry over the omission of ‘Zone’, and we felt compelled to call it in. While many of these Spanish-language books would have looked good on the longlist (and I guarantee that all of them would finish ahead of a couple of books on the real list), there wasn’t one that stood out above the others, possibly just because there wasn’t one which everyone had read. For me, in truth, the real omission was the Krasznahorkai, but there wasn’t a groundswell of consensus to back it up.

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      1. thanks for explaining, now it makes sense. As for Krasznahorkai, I still have not read anything, but there are at least 2 books by him I really want to try!
        I read some Hungarian authors and poets in my 20s, I was quite taken by the mood of these books. I had also visited Hungry in 1988 and was really taken by its haunting beauty

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        1. Emma – I would definitely recommend Krasznahorkai. His books aren’t quick, easy reads, but they’re certainly worth the effort…

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  4. The Man Booker International Longlist has the same problem as similar lists (and awards) in other countries – a certain lack of transparency. Why did certain authors/books appear on the list and others not, what were the criteria on which the choice was based, etc. Too much seems to depend on individual preferences of the panel members. The lack of any Spanish-language titles is indeed surprising and not justified.

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    1. Thomas – There are a number of reasons why the submission details are rarely released for these prizes, but it is extremely frustrating. It would be great to see the full list of the 155 titles submitted…

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    2. “Too much seems to depend on individual preferences of the panel members” – what else is it supposed to depend on? Not sure how one establishes an objective and transparent way to decide which books to shortlist – perhaps the best one could possibly do is release some minutes of the judges deliberations, but the only prize I can think of that does this is the Nobel Prize and they wait 50 years to release them!

      The issue of not releasing the list of books submitted though could be addressed. Can understand why the main Man Booker doesn’t do it, as the publishers have to make some hard choices, but here one gets the impression most likely winners were submitted, so why not give us the list.

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      1. “what else is it supposed to depend on?” – some mandatory criteria for example on which the decisions to put a book on the longlist/shortlist are based for example; or am I expecting too much? This is a quite important award and a little bit more transparency would be very much to my (and probably to many other readers’) liking.

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        1. I do think that (at the longlist stage especially) we tend to see books chosen simply because one judge won’t let them go – hopefully, that’s over with by the shortlist stage…

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  5. In terms of the Shadow Jury’s decision not to call in a book, it is the right one I think.

    Yes we can all think of books that should have been on the list – in some cases better books by the same author.

    But there isn’t one stand-out omission, so if one went this route it would be better to come up with a completely different short list and make this an Alternative MBI, rather like the Guardian does with the Booker prize, not a shadow jury for the MBI.

    Also the list the jury has come up with is, in my view, much closer to a best-13 translated novels than the main Booker prize long-list ever gets to the best-13 English language novels.

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    1. Paul – Last year it was clear, this year not so much (although I still think ‘Seiobo..’ is a puzzling omission). It is a very good list, how good depends on the last few I have to read🙂

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