Well, it’s been over two months now since the longlist for the International Booker Prize introduced us to this year’s thirteen contenders, and with the field having already been narrowed down to the final six books, it’s only a matter of hours until we find out which of them Frank Wynne and his team of judges have chosen as best in show for 2022.
Which is all well and good, but (of course) what you’re all *really* waiting to find out is what our rag-tag band of amateur readers made of the list. Over the past couple of months, our Shadow Panel has been reading, reviewing and ranting about the books the official judges saw fit to bestow upon us, and while it’s been (as always) a fun endeavour, it’s time for the journey to come to an end as we announce our Shadow champion for the year
So, which book stood out above the crowd, fighting off the opposition to become this year’s number one? Drum roll, please…
THE WINNER OF THE 2022 SHADOW INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE IS:
Bora Chung’s Cursed Bunny
(Honford Star, translated by Anton Hur)
Congratulations to all involved in bringing this excellent collection of stories into English! This was a book I enjoyed immensely the first time I read it, but by the time came to take another look, I wasn’t sure how it would fare against some of the other longlisted books. Luckily, a second read confirmed that it was a quality work, a mesmerising collection with nary a weak point, and most of my fellow judges seemed to agree, making it one of our top contenders right from the start. Cynics might say that it was translator Anton Hur’s decision to pay us a (virtual) visit that tipped the scales, but (as you’ll see) that wasn’t necessarily the case…
…since we also had the chance to catch up with another translator this year, Daisy Rockwell, whose work just missed out on our prize. This year’s honourable mention goes to:
Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand
(Tilted Axis Press, translated by Daisy Rockwell)
In what was a very close race, Shree’s excellent sprawling novel of an old woman finding a new lease on life after the death of her husband, one that sees her returning to her roots, just fell short. Nevertheless, it’s a book that our panel enjoyed, and we’re thrilled that writer, translator and press alike have received some well-deserved publicity by making it this far.
Speaking of publishers, you may have noticed that our top two books come from two presses who had never even been represented on the longlist before this year. Honford Star are a very small operation who will have been thrilled by the exposure brought about by the longlisting of Cursed Bunny, and while even the good folk over at Tilted Axis Press will have been amazed at having three books make the cut, it could also be seen as a reward for continuing to publish so many quality books, even after several years of (perhaps unfairly) missing out.
There’s one other book we’d like to mention in passing, though, namely:
Jon Fosse’s Septology
(Fitzcarraldo Editions, translated by Damion Searls)
Fosse’s well regarded round these parts, and with two of the three books of the seven-part novel(!) being longlisted, he’s worthy of a special mention. For us, the main question here was whether the stand-alone third volume was enough to take out the prize. Even if we eventually decided that parts six and seven of a seven-part novel weren’t sufficient for victory, Septology is an excellent book all the same, and I’m sure many more readers will jump on board once the single-volume edition comes out later this year.
As was the case last year, we used our “Eurovision” voting system to decide on a winner. Each judge ranked the six books on the Shadow Shortlist and awarded them points: ten for the best, seven for the next best, then five, three, two and one. With eight judges participating, this meant each book could get a maximum of eighty points and a minimum of eight points – and here are the final results:
1st) Cursed Bunny (60 points)
2nd) Tomb of Sand (59 points)
3rd) Elena Knows (38 points)
4th) A New Name (32 points)
5th) Happy Stories, Mostly (22 points)
6th) The Book of Mother (13 points)
Yes, that’s how close it was – the decision was always in doubt, right up to the final set of votes, and it could easily have gone the other way.
That’s all for this prize announcement as it’s time to look ahead. In a matter of hours, at a rather swanky affair that puts our covert online discussions to shame, the judges, writers and translators will all be up on stage after a lovely dinner, waiting to hear who will be taking home a big cheque and a lump of crystal they’ll be scared to hold for fear of dropping it. Will the official judges follow our lead, or will they go for something controversial (like one of the two books we didn’t even bother shortlisting…)? We’ll find out soon enough…
…or you will, at least – I’ll be asleep. Let me know in the morning how it went, OK?