And the (Shadow) MBIP 2017 Winner is…

Today’s the day (and it’s been a long time coming…) – after months of deliberation, and (I’m sure) plenty of boisterous discussion, the judges for this year’s Man Booker International Prize will be announcing their winner.  And, of course, you all know what that means…  Yes, the Shadow Panel has also been hard at work behind the scenes, busily reading away and having a few discussions of our own, leading to our announcement today.  As you’ll soon hear, it’s been particularly tough this time around, with a very strong field fighting away for the crown, but we did eventually manage to pick a winner – and here it is!

THE WINNER OF THE 2017 SHADOW MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE IS:

MATHIAS ÉNARD’S COMPASS
(FITZCARRALDO EDITIONS, TRANSLATED BY CHARLOTTE MANDELL)

Congratulations to all involved!  It’s no secret that we’re big fans of the French writer, going so far as to call in his superb novel Zone after it was overlooked for the IFFP longlist a couple of years back, and Compass was in the reckoning for this year’s prize from the very start.  Another superbly written and translated work, this is truly a novel worthy of being named best translated book of the year (and I wouldn’t be surprised if the official judges agreed…).

*****
Last year, I talked about how the decision was our hardest ever, but incredibly our sixth Shadow Panel outing managed to ‘improve’ on that.  We had four very strong contenders, with Amos Oz’s Judas and Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream not far off making the final showdown (in fact, our eight judges were equally split between the top four books in our second round of voting!).

In the end, we had two books we were virtually unable to separate, and the decision was only made a matter of hours ago, and by the smallest possible margin.  For Compass, the dice fell kindly, but another book had to face up to the cruelty of coming so very close to taking out our prize.

OUR HONOURABLE MENTION FOR 2017 GOES TO:

ROY JACOBSEN’S THE UNSEEN
(MACLEHOSE PRESS, TRANSLATED BY DON BARTLETT & DON SHAW)

Jacobsen’s wonderful novel of a family on a Norwegian island was my discovery of the whole event, and while it’s a shame it didn’t quite get the final nod, The Unseen has certainly gained a lot of admirers – and Jacobsen (along with the two Dons!) will certainly be making another appearance on the blog at some point.

*****
And that’s it for 2017…

As usual, thanks are due to Stu for coming up with the idea of our Shadow Panel, and I’d like to mention the rest of the gang, too. Tony, David and Bellezza have now been on board for four years, with Grant and Clare clocking up a third appearance and Lori Feathers going around for a second time.  As always, it’s been a pleasure to discuss the books with the whole group, and there’s only one thing I’d change – given the closeness of the past two decisions, perhaps next year we need to ensure that we have an odd number of judges 😉

I hope that you’ve all enjoyed following our progress and have made a couple of your own vicarious journeys after being inspired by our travels – it’s always good to hear that we’ve helped readers discover new destinations.  Finally, our thanks go to the official judges for selecting a varied and fascinating longlist for us to shadow.  I won’t pretend that we’ve agreed with all of their decisions, but it’s been fun to shake our heads knowingly at their choices and feel smug about ours.

Oh, and don’t forget – they’re still to announce their selection.  When this year’s winner is revealed, I wonder if we’ll be nodding in approval or gasping in disbelief?  Only a few hours before we find out…

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15 thoughts on “And the (Shadow) MBIP 2017 Winner is…

  1. “I wonder if we’ll be nodding in approval or gasping in disbelief” – to me there are 5 books on the official shortlist that all fall into the former camp (even if I have my personal favourites) – and one glaring stand-out in the latter category.

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      1. Well the good news is I think the shadow jury picked the strongest book from its shortlist.

        The bad news is you left off the best book of all. Pleased to see the official jury concurred with the Goodreads gang and picked the right winner 🙂

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  2. Tony, a huge, heartfelt thank you to you and Stu for carrying off such a heavy literary endeavor with such finesse. Every year when I think about abandoning blogging, I remember there is the MBIP Shadow Jury, and I get excited all over again. As I wrote my post, and reviewed even the first sentence of this magnificent book, I am awed by Enard’s skill. And truly, I highly suggest listening to the playlist on Spotify as one reads. Or, after. It’s quite enriching.

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  3. You all did a tremendous job in reading through these on our behalf. I see the Sunday Times was rather dismissive of the list this year, labelling it too Eur-centric in terms of the authors’ countries of origin. It also reckoned three books were left off that should have been on the shortlist but got stuck at the longlist stage

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      1. You willl be pleased to here the Sunday Times described the eventual winner as an “overinflated short story.”

        But in the same breath it had Fever Dream- “floridly overwritten in that pretentious melodramatic style that thinks it is intense and haunting ….. It is a nightmare in so many ways.”

        And its take on Compass: “don’t let [the concept] mislead you into thinking it might be interesting … I can really recommend it to insomniacs everywhere.”

        Rather a bitter article actually – but it did love The Unseen.

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          1. My go-to journalist on these things is Eileen Battersby in the Irish Times. She clearly has read all the books – indeed many she flags in her review pages well before longlists are published. She also called the shortlist, other than Bricks & Mortar for the Nors book.

            You will be pleased to hear her hot tip from day 1 was Compass (alongside Bricks & Mortar) and she was also a big fan of The Unseen and Fever Dream. A Horse Walks Into a Bar and Judas were “fine novels, neither of which should win” although A Horse was one of her favourite novels of 2016, so this was more by comparison to Compass than any particular issue with the book.

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            1. Paul – I had a quick look at her piece after the announcement, and it was a huge write-up featuring both the book and Grossman’s earlier work, so I assumed that she was a fan…

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