Monday saw the announcement of the longlist for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, and our Shadow Panel would like to begin by thanking the official judges for the effort they have expended on poring over all of the submitted titles to come up with a final baker’s/Booker dozen of works. This year’s selection is an intriguing mix of familiar faces and new discoveries, with two former winners in Han Kang and László Krasznahorkai returning (
three four if, like us, you include Jenny Erpenbeck’s win in the final edition of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and Javier Cercas’ earlier success in that same competition) alongside several writers new to Anglophone readers. As always, we extend our hearty thanks to the translators who make it all possible, with particular praise going to Frank Wynne for his feat in having two works make the longlist – in different languages, too.
This year’s choices hail from ten different countries, but (as is often the case) the majority come from Europe, reflecting perhaps the nature of the submitted titles. With three Spanish titles (and one from Argentina) selected, just eight languages account for the entire longlist; again, while it would be nice to have more diversity, it is highly likely that the majority of books entered were originally written in the major European languages.
One pleasing development in this year’s prize, though, is an increase in the number of female authors represented on the longlist. Six of the thirteen books were written by women, while there are seven female translators among the fifteen whose work has been honoured. It will be interesting to see what those numbers look like when the shortlist appears.
We were also interested to see a number of smaller presses rewarded for their work over the past year. While ‘small’ is a relative term in publishing, there can be little doubt that Charco Press and Fitzcarraldo Editions fit that description, and we are happy to see their work highlighted. Both MacLehose Press and Portobello Books continue to rack up longlist nominations, and Oneworld Publications have once again presented a strong contender in their bid to add the international Booker trophy to their two English-language wins.
In terms of books selected, few were surprised that The White Book, Go, Went, Gone, The World Goes On and Frankenstein in Baghdad made the cut, and most of the titles are familiar. However, there are a few books that we were not aware of, and we look forward to finding out more about them in the coming weeks. Perhaps more interesting, though, are some of the omissions. The Shadow Panel had its own deliberations over the past week, coming up with a list with many similarities to the official version. Books we considered, but which failed to make the official cut, include Nora Ikstena’s Soviet Milk (translated by Margita Gailitis: Peirene Press), Rainald Goetz’s Insane (tr. Adrian Nathan West: Fitzcarraldo Editions) and Lina Meruane’s Seeing Red (tr. Megan McDowell: Atlantic Books). All of these are fit to have graced the longlist, and we are a little sad to see them left out.
However, if there is one title that we are surprised not to see included, it has to be Andrés Barba’s Such Small Hands (tr. Lisa Dillman: Portobello Books). A superb take on the darkness hidden in the world of children, this was one of our certainties, and we were sorely tempted to call it in for our own longlist (which would have been only the second book we have done this for). However (wrongly or rightly), after much discussion we decided to place our trust in the official judges and stay with the thirteen titles they decided upon, reserving our judgement until we have read the books they deemed better than Barba’s short novel. Should all thirteen longlisted titles prove to be worthy finalists, then we will applaud the judges’ decision…
…but that is something to discuss in a month’s time…