International Booker Prize 2023 – Predictions

It’s a little under two weeks until the official judges for this year’s International Booker Prize reveal their longlist (on the 14th of March, to be exact), and the members of our completely unofficial Shadow Panel are champing at the bit, eager to get on and examine just what made the cut this time around.

However, part of the fun, of course, is trying to second-guess the judges and see what books might be on the longlist, and today’s post follows my long-standing tradition of sticking my neck out (and invariably making a fool of myself).  I’ve only seen a fraction of the eligible titles, and I’m slightly biased towards certain countries, and certain publishers, too (those who send me lots of books).  Nevertheless, for what it’s worth, here are a few titles that might be on the list when it appears…

Starting off, as always, with Japanese books, there are a few familiar names I suspect might have a fair chance.  Sayaka Murata’s Life Ceremony (translated by Ginny Tapley-Takemori, published by Granta Books) is an eccentric collection of tales that has charmed and appalled readers in equal measure, while Yōko Tawada has followed up The Last Children of Tokyo with Scattered All Over the Earth (tr. Margaret Mitsutani: Granta Books), another futuristic look at Japan, or at least the Japanese.  However, the Japanese book I most expect to see on the longlist is All the Lovers in the Night (tr: Sam Bett & David Boyd: Picador), the latest novel in English from Mieko Kawakami (who is fast becoming the new face of J-Lit in the Anglosphere).  I enjoyed this spiky tale of a woman working her way through a breakdown even more than her earlier books, so I’m hoping the judges agree.

Elisha Shua Dusapin is not Japanese, but her short novel The Pachinko Parlour (tr. Anneesa Abbas Higgins: Daunt Books) continues the J-Lit theme.  It’s an enjoyable story of a young woman spending a summer in Tokyo, preparing to take her Korean grandparents back to their homeland for the first time since they left.  And speaking of Korea, if you’re looking for a fun read on the longlist, Cheon Myeong-kwan’s Whale (tr. Chi-Young Kim: Europa Editions), an amusing romp through recent Korean history, might just be what you’re after.

Let’s leave Asia behind now and head off to the Americas, where we’ll find three books that might well catch the judges’ eye.  I was impressed by Mexican writer Guadelupe Nettel’s Still Born (tr. Rosalind Harvey: Fitzcarraldo Editions), a book about adults, children and making the most of whatever path you choose in life, and while ‘enjoyed’ is probably not the right word here, Tatiana Salem Levy’s Vista Chinesa (tr. Alison Entrekin: Scribe Publications), based on a real-life Brazilian sex crime, is a powerful, moving work that deserves a wider audience.  Finally, moving on to Colombia, I’m not sure that Juan Gabriel Vásquez needs that wider audience, but Retrospective (tr. Anne McLean: MacLehose Press) is another accomplished (chunky) novel examining his country’s past, this time from a couple of slightly unexpected angles.

Most years see the IBP longlist dominated by European books, and I’ve read several of these that would be worthy of selection.  Manuel Astur’s Of Saints and Miracles (tr. Claire Wadie: Peirene Press), a beautiful, poetic book looking at a Spanish farmer’s flight from the law, and the myths of his local region, is one I would love to see chosen.  It’s his first work available in English, which can’t be said for another couple of male writers.  Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk has been this way before, and his big, baggy historical novel Nights of Plague (tr. Ekin Oklap: Hamish Hamilton) is one for those who enjoy a lengthy read.  At the other end of the scale, Philippe Claudel’s German Fantasia (tr. Julian Evans: MacLehose Press) brings together five stories looking at the Second World War from a number of rather oblique perspectives.

Don’t worry – I haven’t forgotten about European women…  My last two picks are a couple of short but sweet(?) works that linger in the memory.  Hanne Ørstavik’s Ti Amo (tr. Martin Aitken: And Other Stories) is a beautiful love letter to the writer’s husband, whose final days it describes, whereas Maylis de Kerangal’s Eastbound (tr. Jessica Moore: Les Fugitives) focuses on a meeting between two very different people – on the Trans-Siberian Express…

That adds up, appropriately enough, to thirteen books, just enough for a longlist, but I doubt that I’ve got more than a few right.  Just to hedge my bets, then, here are some books I haven’t yet read that I think could be in with a chance:

Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez
(tr. Megan McDowell: Granta)

Greek Lessons by Han Kang
(tr. Deborah Smith & Emily Yae Won: Hamish Hamilton)

Aliss at the Fire by Jon Fosse
(tr. Damion Searls: Fitzcarraldo Editions)

A Mountain to the North, A Lake to the South, Paths to the West, A River to the East by László Krasznahorkai
(tr. Ottilie Mulzet: Tuskar Rock Press)

The Private Lives of Trees by Alejandro Zambra
(tr. Megan McDowell: Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Sadly, I don’t own copies of any of these, so if any publicists are reading this, you know who to reach out to for a review…

So, what do you think?  Any favourites among these, or have I picked some you regard as stinkers?  Let me know in the usual place, and watch out for more IBP posts once the longlist finally appears.  I’m gearing myself up for some heavy reading, reviewing and debating – let the fun begin!


10 thoughts on “International Booker Prize 2023 – Predictions

  1. Have read four off your list – The Pachinko Parlour, Of Saints and Miracles, Retrospective, and Ti Amo. Of these Ti Amo was probably my favourite. I tend to just skim read blurbs, so Retrospective was also not what I was expecting, but it was interesting and very readable. Still planning on reading Eastbound and Still Born. The book that has stuck with me is Thirsty Sea by Erica Mou, but that is probably my soft spot for new publisher Heloise.


    1. Sonia – I’ve got my fingers crossed for the Astur book as it’s one I enjoyed immensely, but I wonder if the longlist announcement will have me seeking out ‘Thirsty Sea’, too…


  2. Does it count, that I’ve copies of several of these that I haven’t yet read? I did (almost) get to Astur’s Saints & Miracles; I read a few pages & put it aside for no good reason but that’s about it! (it’s one of those “I’ll go back to it when I can pay attention” books, at least for me). Of the other ones on your list, I’m most eager to try Kerangel’s Eastbound (have a copy) or anything by Dusapin or Tawada (works by both authors are on my increasingly dusty unread TBR pile). I’m afraid Murata’s Earthlings, which I read shortly after it was published, has made me very cautious about reading more of her work (I liked Convenience Store Woman quite a bit, so I’ll probably try her again at some point. Just not now). Claudel’s German Fantasia is new to me and sounds quite interesting . . .


  3. I think the books I’m most drawn to currently is Still born by Nettel and Our share of night by Enriquez, if none of them make the longlist I’m going to be sad. I’m hoping for a dark longlist with the same vibe as 2022. I think you have picked many books that are likely contenders!


    1. Emilie – A dark longlist? Not sure I like the sound of that! I do wonder what kind of panel this will be, and whether they’ll play it safe or have a particular angle (one which will probably produce some poor longlisters…).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I skimmed the interviews yesterday and it seems that they are looking for creative and challenging writing. Not sure I’m up for that as I’m not that fancy, but I also see a thread of all of them wanting to touch on relevant and tough topics. Haha, OK, fair enough, there can be some light in my wishes for a dark longlist. What are you hoping for?


        1. Emilie – I’m hoping for the best books (which is often not the case when judges decide to approach the whole affair from a preconceived angle…).


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