Man Booker International Prize 2018 – Predictions

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 FeetJón 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 BooksAndrés 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…

13 thoughts on “Man Booker International Prize 2018 – Predictions

  1. Charco Press is a wonderful new press – and Die My Love has already made the Republic of Consciousness Prize (where I was a judge) Charco have three other eligible books, based on publication date, but didn’t enter them into the MBI due to the timeframe involved in terms of when the judges need copies – which is an interesting point when considering eligibility.

    And we also Republic of Consciousness Prize shortlisted the excellent Blue Self-Portrait by Noémi Lefebvre and Les Fugitives.

    Frankenstein on Baghdad is one I would be very disappointed not to see on the list – everyone who has read it seems to love it – and its by Oneworld who have a rather good Booker track record (two Booker on the trot then MBI shortlist last year]

    Lullaby is the translated book with most buzz at the moment generally: not quite sure how it won the Prix Goncourt – it is no Compass – but I would expect to see it figure.

    Insane by Rainald Goetz and Rover by Esther Kinsky are other Fitzcarraldo contenders alongside Companions, but having read all 4 my personal support would be for Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

    And surely Orhan Pamuk must always be in the reckoning – this year with Red Haired Woman

    A Peirene is usually (2017 aside) de rigueur – Soviet Milk perhaps?

    MBI winning Deborah Smith’s own new press must surely feature – let’s hope for The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo given our mutual love of all things Korean

    Others which I haven’t read but hear good things about:

    The Impostor by Javier Cercas is another from a previous and heavy-hitting favourite

    The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet sounds intriguing

    As does Vernon Subutex, 1 by Virginie Despentes

    Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by previously MBI featured Eka Kurniawan

    The Gurugu Pledge by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel a previous IFFP longlistee

    Overall feels like it could be a very good year – albeit last year’s winner of course set the bar very high.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul – See, this was a great comment until you ruined it with the very last clause 😉

      A few good ones there, although having suffered through ‘HHhH’, I’m not sure the Binet appeals. ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Soviet Milk’ would be good, if only because I have copies of both!


  2. I’m, assuming you don’t mention some of the small presses as the books are hard to get, but how did you miss Dasa Drndic’s Belladonna?
    I would also be very pleased if Charco Press were represented, and not just because they are based in Edinburgh. (The same goes for Tilted Axis Press).
    The best I can say about Jon Kalman Stefansson is that at least he has already used the worst book title ever and his new one certainly encapsulates how long his novels feel!


    1. Grant – This was just a list of books I’d happened to get around to, and they tend to be from the not-too-big, not-too-little sector of publishers. Re: Drndic, I was one of the few people who actually didn’t like ‘Trieste’ that much, so I wasn’t exactly straining to get a copy of ‘Belladonna’ (I suppose that’ll change if it gets longlisted). JKS, on the other hand… 😉


  3. So- what do you think of the list?? I was delighted to see 7th fiction of language, go went gone and the stolen bicycle… I’m looking forward to reading the rest!


    1. Jennifer – Generally positive, although Binet is probably the one I didn’t want to make it as I wasn’t a huge fan of ‘HHhH’! It’s a good mix of big names and fresher faces, and I can’t wait to try them all 🙂


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