Man Booker International Prize 2016 – The Shadow Panel Shortlist

MBI2016 Logo RGB pinkIt’s been about five weeks since the announcement of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize longlist, ushering in one of the busiest periods of my blogging year.  Along with the rest of my intrepid colleagues on the Shadow Panel, I’ve been devoting much of my free time to reading the books, discussing them online and writing up reviews summarising, rating and slating them (it’s a hard life, this blogging business…).

Finally, though, it’s time to display the fruits of our labours, and the Shadow Panel is ready to hand down its verdict.  Here are the six books we’ve chosen to progress to the next stage (links are to my reviews) – your Shadow shortlist 🙂


Elena Ferrante (Italy) & Ann Goldstein
The Story of the Lost Child
 (Europa Editions)

Han Kang (South Korea) & Deborah Smith
The Vegetarian 
(Portobello Books)

Maylis de Kerangal (France) & Jessica Moore
Mend the Living
 (MacLehose Press)

Yan Lianke (China) & Carlos Rojas
The Four Books
 (Chatto & Windus)

Marie NDiaye (France) & Jordan Stump
 (MacLehose Press)

Kenzaburō Ōe (Japan) & Deborah Boliver Boehm
Death by Water
 (Atlantic Books)

I hope you’d all agree that this is a very strong shortlist, one of the best I can remember (in fact, I’d say the whole longlist had the best strength in depth I’ve seen in my five years of Shadowing), and there were several other books that might have made the cut on another day.  A special mention must go here to Tram 83, which very narrowly missed out on selection.

Once again, our team of amateur reviewers has done a sterling job of sourcing and reading the books in a short space of time.  Three of the eight judges managed to read the whole list, with most of the others not far behind.  Each book on the longlist was read by at least five of the judges, ensuring fair coverage, while three of the books had the attention of the whole panel 🙂

A few themes dominate this list.  The first is the success of East Asian books: one selection each from Japan, China and South Korea means this region provides half of the shortlist.  Another is the presence of two French novels, both published by MacLehose Press: French literature seems to be an area where MacLehose are particularly strong, and our shortlist merely confirms that.  The final area of note is the prevalence of female authors: all four of the longlisted titles by women made our cut.  You can finish this thought off yourselves 😉

Once we’ve finished congratulating ourselves on a job well done, it’ll be time to get our noses back to the grindstone.  I’ll be rereading a few of our shortlisted titles (and flicking through others), ready for the discussions to decide the winner.  Without wanting to give away too many of our secrets, unlike last year, where if it hadn’t been for our addition of Zone to the longlist, The End of Days would have been an easy runaway winner, choosing the 2016 shadow winner will be no easy task, with each of the shortlisted books having someone to fight its corner.  Let’s hope it doesn’t get too bloody…

Of course, the real longlist will be announced at some point tomorrow, and we all have a keen interest in seeing what the official judges have made of their task.  We’ve laid our cards on the table – now let’s see what they’re holding 😉

11 thoughts on “Man Booker International Prize 2016 – The Shadow Panel Shortlist

  1. Excellent shortlist.

    5 of the 6 on my personal shortlist – I had White Hunger rather than The Four Books.

    and 5 out of 6 on my predictions of what you would pick – I thought Ferrante would miss out (given difficulty in reading if one hadn’t read 1-3) and Tram 83 would make it on, which you say narrowly missed out.

    My guess is the real shortlist will have Tram 83 and one of Ladivine or Mend the Living will miss out for the reasons you’ve mentioned before (same publisher, same country, same gender).


    1. Paul – It was all very tight for the last few spots, I can assure you 😉

      I also think that the real list will be a little different (surely we can’t be too far off?), but having shadowed Boyd and his teams before, I’m still not ruling out the surprise selection of ‘A Cup of Rage’ 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I’m still not ruling out the surprise selection of ‘A Cup of Rage’😉” – there are surprise selections and there are ridiculous selections, and I really really hope that isn’t even close to the shortlist and made the longlist by mistake.

        I am though putting, probably too much, faith in some of the other judges like Daniel Medin, to make the new award a little less IFFP like than before.


    1. Bellezza – I think, as I mentioned above, the biggest problem will be that this year everyone seems to have a different favourite 🙂


  2. Awesome work you guys! It’s a great-looking list… I’ve read Ferrante and Kang; am looking forward to diving into the others 😀 interesting to hear that it was so close!


    1. Julianne – Thanks 🙂 Yes, a very close race, and I can’t wait to see what Boyd and his merry men (and women) have come up with!


  3. Nothing wrong with the shortlist in that they are all solid books and anything on the longlist (with one glaring exception) was worthy of picking.

    But to drop some of the outstanding novels on your shortlist (Mend the Living, Death by Water, Ladivine) in favour of some that are merely good……..Boyd 1 Daniel 0?


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