Man Booker International Prize 2019 – The Shadow Shortlist

The shortlist for this year’s Man Booker International Prize was announced last Tuesday, but we on the Shadow Panel like to take our time, particularly given the rather brief period separating the long- and shortlist announcements.  However, we’ve finally managed to get our act together and decide on our favourites, the books *we* think deserve to live another day and fight it out for the top prize this year.  So, who did we tip our hats to, and who was shown the door in no uncertain fashion this time around?  Well, come this way, and you’ll find out – here is the Man Booker International Prize Shadow Shortlist for 2018!


Jokha Alharthi (Oman) & Marilyn Booth
– Celestial Bodies (Sandstone Press)

Annie Ernaux (France) & Alison Strayer
– The Years (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Sara Stridsberg (Sweden) & Deborah Bragan-Turner
– The Faculty of Dreams (Quercus Books)

Olga Tokarczuk (Poland) & Antonia Lloyd-Jones
– Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombia) & Anne McLean
– The Shape of the Ruins (MacLehose Press)

Alia Trabucco Zerán (Chile/Italy) & Sophie Hughes
– The Remainder (And Other Stories)


A few thoughts…

One thing you may have noticed is a remarkable similarity with the official shortlist.  Five books have made both lists (which I’m pretty sure is a record), with The Faculty of Dreams replacing… well, a book I, for one, am glad to see the back of 😉  In truth, it’s little surprise that the lists are similar – given the fairly weak selection we started with, it was inevitable that the cream would rise to the top.  In fact, we did seriously consider a shortlist of just five titles as a protest against the omission of so many excellent books (and the inclusion of several duds), but in the end we decided to reward our top six works instead.

In terms of the breakdown, three of our books are European, with two from South America plus Alharthy’s look at Oman, while our collection, like the official shortlist, has room for just one man (JGV) among the twelve writers and translators.  Congratulations are also due to the presses: Sandstone Press, And Other Stories, Fitzcarraldo Editions and MacLehose Press, with the latter two presses represented twice (and with several other strong contenders overlooked for the longlist).

Let’s spare a thought for our judges, too.  The longlist was full of unfamiliar titles, meaning we had to read most of the books before the cut-off date, and on the whole we’ve done very well.  Many judges managed to polish off the whole list, and all the books were covered by at least eight judges, with almost all rated by nine or ten (the only one everyone got to was Drive Your Plow…!).  It’s an impressive feat for a bunch of amateurs, and now we’ll be taking a well-deserved break…

…but not for long.  You see, we’ll be back to rereading and our discussions in the near future in preparation for the main event, the choice of this year’s shadow winner.  As is customary, we’ll be announcing our choice on the morning of the official announcement, and with three of the last four Shadow IFFP/MBIP winners going on to pick up the shiny chunk of glass, you might want to tune in for a tip as to this year’s official champion.  That’s in the future, though – now I just want to sleep.  See you in May 😉

11 thoughts on “Man Booker International Prize 2019 – The Shadow Shortlist

  1. I’m interested as to why you guys come up with your own shortlist. Most shadow juries accept the official shortlist cos the fun comes in seeing whether you pick the same winner. That might not happen if your shortlist differs wildly from the official shortlist.


    1. Kim – Because we (usually) accept their longlist. We are bound at that stage, but having read the whole list, we feel we have just as much of a right as the official judges to choose *our* top six. And I’m not sure that what you said about how “the fun comes in seeing whether you pick the same winner” is what we’re there for. We’re trying to pick the best book from the longlist, and if the official judges omit that book, why should we follow suit? In short, I suspect that we have less confidence in the infallibilty of prize judges than other shadow panels 😉


      1. Fair enough; it’s not a criticism, I was just genuinely interested. I guess it just goes to prove how subjective book prize judging is! I will be interested to see which book you choose as your winner.


        1. Kim – I was actually surprised that you were surprised! It’s what we’ve done ever since 2012, and I can’t imagine having to stick with a book we (nearly) all disliked (and that would have been the case this year) just because the “experts” liked it 😉 In fact, if it were up to me, we would have called in more books over the years. So far, it’s only happened once, when we called in Mathias Énard’s ‘Zone’, and I’m glad we did as Jenny Erpenbeck’s The End of Days’ would have had very little competition otherwise that year…


  2. I often find the long lists of prizes where the gems are and I like that there might different shortlists by different panels of judges, it is coincidental though that you’ve come up with almost the same shortlist.


    1. Claire – Hmm. As I said in my post, I’m not sure that was the case this year. There’s a general feeling among bloggers in our corner of the web that this was quite a weak longlist, and that was why the shortlists were similar – there really wasn’t that much choice… A Goodreads group that has a bit of overlap with our panel had virtually the same shortlist, too!


  3. Well, congrats to you and your team for all the intense reading! Glad you all got to the Olga at least! I’ll be very interested to see whether you and the official judges agree this year, particularly bearing in mind that one contentious book….. ;D


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