It’s been two weeks since the official judges revealed the shortlist for this year’s International Booker Prize, but given the tight turnaround between the long- and shortlist announcements, we in the Shadow Panel opted, as is our wont, to give ourselves more time. Those extra two weeks have allowed us to read as much of the longlist as possible in relative comfort, participate in a host of online discussions and even (for those who could make it) join in a Zoom meeting where each of the longlisted books was examined to within an inch of its bindings. So, what’s the end result of all this procrastination, deliberation and conversation? Well, our final six, of course – introducing this year’s Shadow Shortlist 🙂
Norman Erikson Pasaribu (Indonesia) & Tiffany Tsao
– Happy Stories, Mostly (Tilted Axis Press)
Claudia Piñeiro (Argentina) & Frances Riddle
– Elena Knows (Charco Press)
Violaine Huisman (France) & Leslie Camhi
– The Book of Mother (Virago)
Jon Fosse (Norway) & Damion Searls
– A New Name: Septology VI-VII (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Geetanjali Shree (India) & Daisy Rockwell
– Tomb of Sand (Tilted Axis Press)
Bora Chung (South Korea) & Anton Hur
– Cursed Bunny (Honford Star)
Hmm – I wonder what you’ll all make of that…
As you can see, there’s a fair bit of overlap with the official shortlist, with four books appearing on both sets of six. Of those from the official list that we omitted, Mieko Kawakami’s Heaven (tr. Sam Bett and David Boyd) was always on the edge of the top six and eventually fell just short. Perhaps a bigger surprise for many readers will be the fact that The Books of Jacob (tr. Jennifer Croft) didn’t make the cut – but not if you’ve been reading our posts and social media comments. While there’s a lot of love for Olga Tokarczuk in our group, that doesn’t extend to her latest novel in English, and my warmish review is probably one of the most positive takes on the book.
In terms of the inclusions, Happy Stories, Mostly is another book many of our judges thought might make the official shortlist, but it’s the other Shadow Shortlistee that might raise a few eyebrows (especially if you read my review). It’s fair to say that I was not a big fan of The Book of Mother, but judging literary prizes is a team game, which means you can’t always get your own way. I was in a minority here, so I’ve just had to grit my teeth and accept the decision (if you need me, I’ll be over in the corner, sulking…).
So, two shortlists, eight different books, and there are still a couple of works I’m sad won’t be getting any more publicity. I honestly thought Fernanda Melchor’s Paradais (tr. Sophie Hughes) would fare much better than it did, and I’m wondering why I seem to be alone in loving David Grossman’s More Than I Love My Life (tr. Jessica Cohen). I suppose there’s no accounting for taste…
For those interested in how we reached our verdict, here are a few stats. On average, our eight judges managed around eleven books each, with three judges managing to complete the whole longlist. There were three books that everyone managed to get to, and virtually all the others were read by at least six judges. Interestingly, the one outlier here was A New Name, which only four judges have read so far – I get the feeling that the others were assuming it would be shortlisted and left it for after the announcement!
Where do we go from here? Well, a few of the judges have a book or two to finish off, and I’m sure there’ll be a fair bit of rereading, rethinking and rehashing the ones we’ve already tried. There’ll also (hopefully) be another Zoom session, so that we can attempt to persuade each other of the various books’ flaws and merits, before we announce the Shadow Winner on the morning (London time) of Thursday, the 26th of May – i.e. a matter of hours before the official judges make their verdict known. Will we pick the same book as them, or will our champion (as was the case last year) be a book they didn’t even shortlist? Only time will tell, so come back later to see which book both panels will single out as best in class for 2022 🙂