Round these parts we’re counting the days until the longlist for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize is revealed and, as always, it makes for a rather frustrating time. While we’re all waiting, it’s fun to speculate as to what might get the nod, so despite my abysmal track record in this area, today’s post tosses a few names in the air in the vain hope that a few might stick to the wall (or ceiling). Let’s see if any of these suggestions make the final cut – I rather suspect that most of them will end up as a soggy mess on the floor.
Before we start, a note of caution – this is a rather lazy list, consisting mainly of books I happen to have read (and that, fingers crossed, are actually eligible). There’s nothing here from all those wonderful indies like Peirene Press, And Other Stories and Tilted Axis Press, so please feel free to
be scathing about my ignorance add your own suggestions in a comment 🙂
I recently reviewed a couple of absorbing works by favourite writers, and both should be under consideration. Antonio Muñoz Molina’s Like A Fading Shadow (translated by Camilo A. Ramirez: published by Tuskar Rock Press) combines the fascinating story of James Earl Ray’s short time in Lisbon with the writer’s own experiences in the city, while László Krasznahorkai’s The World Goes On (tr. John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes: Tuskar Rock Press) is another collection of stories, if that’s the right word, looking at people staggered at simply being alive in a modern, oppressive world.
In Christina Hesselholdt’s Companions (tr. Paul Russell Garrett: Fitzcarraldo Editions), we are witness to a slightly different take on working out what it’s all about, as a group of Danish friends live and love in a work with more than a touch of Virginia Woolf to it. Fitzcarraldo are quickly building a reputation as a press to watch when thinking about quality fiction in translation, and I’m sure I’m not the only reader to think this has a chance. Meanwhile, having already been longlisted for Fish Have No Feet, Jón Kalman Stefánsson must be in the mix with the sequel, About the Size of the Universe (tr. Philip Roughton: MacLehose Press). This one takes us back to Iceland, with the sprawling, multi-generational story culminating in an encounter between the main character and his father. MacLehose usually manage to get one or two on the longlist, and this may well be JKS’ year again.
In terms of publishers likely to feature, though, my money is definitely on Portobello Books. Andrés Barba’s Such Small Hands (tr. Lisa Dillman), a slim tale of the cruelty of children, is perhaps my top tip for the longlist, and Han Kang’s latest release in English The White Book, (tr. Deborah Smith), a poetic work honouring the elder sister she never knew, should go down well. It never hurts to have a former winner on a prize longlist, and Han would definitely bring some interest from overseas.
Of course, I have a strong interest in East Asian fiction, so it will come as no surprise that I’ve selected another couple of titles from the region. Hwang Sok-yong is a writer who deserves more praise and coverage than he gets, and Familiar Things (tr. Sora Kim-Russell: Scribe Publications), a story examining the darker, and dirtier, side of Seoul, is a book many readers will enjoy, especially for its slightly magical elements. By contrast, Haruki Murakami is one writer who doesn’t really need the publicity – but I’m sure the prize could benefit from his! Men Without Women (tr. Philip Gabriel & Ted Goossen: Harvill Secker) isn’t his best work, but several of the stories included here are reminders of why he’s so popular.
The final couple of suggestions are (for me) blasts from the past as I actually read them several years ago when they appeared in German. We have the prospect of yet another former (IFFP) winner in Jenny Erpenbeck, with her novel about immigration in Germany, Go, Went, Gone (tr. Susan Bernofsky: Portobello Books), surely a great chance to be chosen. Less likely, but still entertaining, is Peter Stamm’s To the Back of Beyond (tr. Michael Hofmann: Granta Books), which follows a middle-aged man as he decides it’s time to leave it all behind. Unlike most people, he actually goes through with his flight, leaving his wife wondering what on earth happened…
(UPDATE: 25/2/18 – Former MBIP judge and all-round spoilsport Daniel Hahn has informed me that Stamm’s book is ineligible because Hofmann happens to be one of the judges. Which seems a little unfair to me, but I suppose you can’t just ask him to nip out for a coffee every time you want to chat about Stamm’s novel.)
As I suggested at the top of this post, this is less an exercise in prediction than a simple list of books I enjoyed, so please feel free to send in your own thoughts – I may even add them to the post!
After all, I’m just kicking my heels until the 12th of March, anyway…