After a period of nervous anticipation for our Shadow Panel, the day has finally arrived, and the longlist for the 2022 International Booker Prize has been announced – and an intriguing one it is, too. Before getting into that, though, thanks are first due to the five people behind the list, the official judges, who deserve our plaudits for spending months reading through the best of this year’s fiction in translation to select this longlist for us (even if that sounds more like a pleasure than a burden…).
If we take a closer look at the thirteen selected titles, we see that seven were written by women, which is par for the IBP course these days, while it’s the geographical information that stands out more. Nine of the thirteen books hail from outside Europe, which is by far the highest number we can remember. Even if Africa misses out this time around, this indicates a desire on the part of of the judges to make the prize a truly global affair. Meanwhile, the only country from which there are two longlisted titles is South Korea, and both have been brought into English by the same person, translator Anton Hur – to which we can only say, 축하합니다 (congratulations)!
A further clear theme here is that the IBP continues to be dominated by small presses. Lolli Editions follow up last year’s debut with another success, with Charco Press, And Other Stories and Honford Star also represented, the last of these for the first time. Of course, two presses dominate. It’s probably unsurprising, even in the wake of the #Translatorgate uproar, that perennial favourites Fitzcarraldo Editions are well represented, but not even the people behind Tilted Axis Press could have imagined that they would also have three titles chosen (perhaps making up for past disappointments).
Of course, in such a competitive field, many worthy presses missed out, with no titles this year from publishers such as Peirene Press, Pushkin Press, Istros Books and MacLehose Press. In terms of books that missed the cut, our judges believe that special mention should go to Pajtim Statovci’s Bolla (translated by David Hackston: Faber & Faber) and Alejandro Zambra’s Chilean Poet (tr. Megan McDowell: Granta Books). Of course, the major omission here is Mircea Cărtărescu’s Nostalgia (tr. Julian Semilian: Penguin Modern Classics), and we were fully prepared to call the book in were it to be overlooked. However, it appears that, on a technicality, it was actually ineligible, so rather than put our foot down, we have decided to abide by the spirit of the rules and stick to the thirteen books provided by the official judges.
That’s made easier by the fact that this year’s Booker Dozen looks to be a pleasing selection of books, one that most people are very happy with. After what was a decidedly non-vintage (and non-fiction) crop last year, the class of ’22 has plenty to offer, with lengthy epics, short tales and some story collections, too, so let’s look forward, not back, and enjoy what the judges have provided for us – which is not to say that we’ll always agree with them. Once we’ve sampled the books, as always, we’ll be choosing our own shortlist, one that may well look rather different from the official selection…
…but that’s a story for another day 😉