March is just around the corner, and that means that it’s not long until the Man Booker International Prize for 2017 gets underway. It’s the second edition for its single-book prize after the amalgamation of the Booker author prize with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and I have a feeling that it’s going to be even bigger this year, with the organisers going all out to promote the longlisted titles. The timeline? Glad you asked 😉
15th March 2017 – Longlist Announcement
20th April 2017 – Shortlist Announcement
14th June 2017 – Winner Announcement
The observant among you will have noticed that the winner announcement has been pushed back considerably to June this year, providing readers with an extra four weeks or so between the shortlist announcement and the end of the race (which, for me, will probably just be thumb-twiddling time…). Our perpetual bête noire Boyd Tonkin has left the building, and this year sees translator extraordinaire Daniel Hahn on the panel – is this finally the year where all the stars align and we get a longlist jam-packed with quality? I won’t hold my breath just yet…
Anyway, I’ve been looking through my list, and having weeded out the books only published in America, those not translated into English yet and various other books published outside the eligibility period, it turns out that I’ve actually read very few books which are eligible for the prize. Nevertheless, I’ve found a few possible contenders (all links to my reviews, where applicable) that might be in the judges’ thoughts come March 🙂
One of the safest tactics to pursue when polishing your crystal ball is to go for familiar names, and today’s list starts off with a couple of old friends. Sjón has previously tasted success in our Shadow IFFP, and Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was (translated by Victoria Cribb: published by Sceptre Books) is hotly tipped to make this year’s longlist. Yuri Herrera may have been overlooked for last years Man Booker International Prize, but Signs Preceding the End of the World took out the American equivalent, the Best Translated Book Award, so you’d expect his latest offering, The Transmigration of Bodies (Lisa Dillman: And Other Stories) to get a more sympathetic hearing this time around.
Speaking of familiar faces, Peirene Press have had incredible success in the IFFP/MBIP, managing to get a book onto the longlist from each of their first six series of books. There’s every chance that this run will continue with Marie Sizun’s Her Father’s Daughter (Adriana Hunter), a beautiful little book about a girl’s fraught relationship with her shell-shocked father. This contrasts nicely with Tahar Ben Jelloun’s semi-fictional tale About My Mother (Ros Schwartz & Lulu Norman: Telegram), in which the Moroccan writer describes a son’s vigil by the bedside of his dying mother.
One of the surprises regarding last year’s longlist was the total absence of Spanish-language titles, despite a stellar year in English for Mexican literature in particular. I have a feeling this is unlikely to happen again in 2017, with several books a chance of being selected. This could be the year of Latin Love, with Laia Jufresa’s Umami (Sophie Hughes: Oneworld Publications), Rodrigo Hasbún’s Affections (Sophie Hughes: Pushkin Press) and Alejandro Zambra’s Multiple Choice (Megan McDowell: Granta Books) bringing Mexico, Bolivia and Chile into the Booker reckoning.
However, as many of you will know, my preferences are often located a little further east, and while I wouldn’t say there are a lot of Asian books in contention, I can think of a couple that might catch the judges’ eyes. Hwang Jungeun’s One Hundred Shadows (Jung Yewon: Tilted Axis Press) may not be quite as powerful as Han Kang’s 2016 winner, but this gentle love story set in the shadows of Seoul will certainly have its supporters. The same is true for Hiromi Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop (Allison Markin Powell: Portobello Books), another fun novel from the writer of Strange Weather in Tokyo/The Briefcase.
Another pair of possible contenders are books I read a good while back, only discovering their eligibility recently. Eka Kurniawan’s Man Tiger was longlisted last year, but in the US, it was his lengthy novel Beauty is a Wound (Annie Tucker: Pushkin Press) that came out first, a book that could well see the Indonesian writer make the list again. Meanwhile, Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of a Polar Bear (Susan Bernofsky: Portobello Books) is just about to appear in English, and if it makes the longlist, I’ll be digging out my German-language edition for a reread.
A decent selection, I hope you’ll agree, but I’d like to finish off with a couple of books I fully expect to be on the longlist (I’ll be *extremely* cross if they’re not…). One of my most recent reads was Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream (Megan McDowell: Oneworld Publications), and if ever a book was destined to explode onto the fiction-in-translation scene, it’s this one. Oneworld have taken out the last two English-language Booker prizes, and with Schweblin’s mesmerising, feverish work, there’s every chance that they’ll be able to add the international prize to their mantelpiece collection.
Before we start packing up the trophies and sending one off to Argentina, though, there’s just the small matter of one of world literature’s contemporary greats to contend with. László Krasznahorkai has already taken out two BTBA awards, and the final Man Booker International author prize, and while I’m still not entirely sure that War and War (George Szirtes: Tuskar Rock) is eligible, if it is, it’s a dead-set favourite. One thing’s certain – if it’s not on the longlist, my friends and I will probably be calling it in anyway…
As mentioned, this is only a small proportion of the eligible titles, but I’ve managed to come up with enough books for a Booker dozen of my own. I wonder how many (if any…) will make the final cut? Well, we’ll just have to wait until the 14th of March to find out 🙂