Man Booker International Prize 2017 – The Shadow Shortlist

Two weeks ago, the official judges made their selection as to the best six works of literature on this year’s Man Booker International Prize longlist, but that (of course) was just a warm-up for the main event.  Apologies for having made you all wait, but we on the Shadow Panel take our duties *very* seriously, and with a lot of reading to do (and no real rush to do it, considering the winner announcement isn’t until June…), we decided to delay our decision – which has had the added bonus of making the official judges sweat a little.  Anyway, without further ado (which is a shame, as that’s pretty much my forte), here is the Man Booker International Prize Shadow Shortlist for 2017!

Mathias Énard
(France) & Charlotte Mandell
(Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Roy Jacobsen (Norway) & Don Bartlett / Don Shaw
The Unseen (MacLehose Press)

Jón Kalman Stefánsson (Iceland) & Philip Roughton
Fish Have No Feet
(MacLehose Press)

Clemens Meyer (Germany) & Katy Derbyshire
Bricks and Mortar
(Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Amos Oz (Israel) & Nicholas de Lange
(Chatto & Windus)

Samanta Schweblin (Argentina) & Megan McDowell
Fever Dream
(Oneworld Publications)


A few quick thoughts…

This year, there’s a fair bit of overlap with the official list, with four strong books making both selections.  As for the two we left out, A Horse Walked into a Bar, while appreciated by most, failed to get a lot of strong support from our group, and Mirror, Shoulder, Signal was a backmarker throughout our reading, I’m afraid.  By contrast, Jón Kalman Stefánsson (a Shadow laureate, lest we forget) had far more support, and Clemens Meyer’s ambition impressed us enough to take Bricks and Mortar into our final six.

It’s been a lot of hard work, though.  From pretty much zero, we did our best to get through the whole list, and four of the eight shadow judges managed the feat, with most of the rest coming very close.  You can rest assured that each of the longlisted titles had a fair hearing as each book was read by at least six judges – and six of them were read by all eight of us.  That’s a lot of pages in a very short time…

So, what happens next?  Well, after a little break to catch our breath, there’ll probably be a little rereading and reevaluating going on (although I doubt we’ll be reading each of them again in their entirety – we do have other things going on in our lives…), before we reconvene (digitally) to make our final decision…

…oh, and this time we’ll be sure we announce it *before* the other mob make theirs public 😉


8 thoughts on “Man Booker International Prize 2017 – The Shadow Shortlist

  1. My prediction (on the Unseen thread) got 5 out of 6 – and those were my 5 definite/likely list, I just picked the wrong 1 of my 3 possible contenders for your 6th slot: I thought you’d give Swallowing Mercury the nod over Fish Have No Feet.

    Very solid list although I probably on balance prefer the official jury’s list this time as you have managed to leave off the best book on the longlist!

    I suspect your winner will come from The Unseen, Fever Dream and Compass – whereas hopefully the official prize will be heading to Horse Walks Into a Bar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul – To be honest, yours wasn’t a bad guess, but it was interesting to see how views developed over the past month, and how initial comments and views didn’t always translate to the eventual scores. The Grossman simply didn’t have any real support from our group and was never really in the hunt, even if several of us recognised that it was a decent book. As for MSS… 😉

      Personally, this shortlist is a new start, and I’ll be trying to have at least a quick flick through each of the six this month – I’ll definitely be trying to give each one another chance to impress 🙂


      1. I don’t think I will get a chance to revisit any of them – although I would be happy with any of 5 of the official list (one obvious exception) winning.

        Incidentally had the shadow shadow jury waited until now to make our call as you did, then I fear Fever Dream may have slipped off the list. I liked it as much as you did but seems to be having the same general lack of traction our side that the Grossman did yours.


        1. Paul – It’s a great book, but I am starting to see more dissenters out there. Having said that, it’s now a case of which of the six books will hold up to a third reading, and I think it’ll do quite well on that count.


          1. I suspect that depends on how one interprets the ambiguity.

            The dissension I have seen has more been along the lines of “not only do I not know what that was supposed to be about and whether it was a dream or real, but I’m pretty sure the author doesn’t either, and a third read is probably only going to frustrate in that case.

            But I rather liked that aspect – what Todorov calls the fantastic. An author can choose between a rational explanation for supernatural events – Todorov calls it “the uncanny” – and a supernatural explanation – what he calls the “marvellous” (and most would call fantasy).

            “The fantastic occupies the duration of this uncertainty. Once we choose one answer or the other, we leave the fantastic for a neighbouring genre, the uncanny or the marvellous. The fantastic is that hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the laws of nature, confronting an apparently supernatural event.”


  2. Delaying our decision made the official judges sweat a little?

    I’m very, very happy with our shortlist. I prefer it to the official list by far, sadly disagreeing with Paul about the best book being left off. I think we left all the right books off our list, including a horse and a mirror.

    But, as I’ve said before to you, Tony, often the official judges do not share the same opinion as I; we shall have to see what they choose in June.

    As for me, Fish Have No Feet, The Unseen and Judas keep vying for first place in my mind…


    1. Bellezza – Well, we can only hope 😉

      I think it’ll be interesting to see how things have changed when we get around to deciding our winner – I predict that this will be another fairly close race, just like last year…

      Liked by 1 person

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