And the (Shadow) IBP 2023 Winner Is…

After close to two months of deliberation, the moment is almost here.  Today (UK time) will see the official judges of this year’s International Booker Prize making their final decision public, rocketing one lucky writer/translator duo into the stratosphere, with fame and fortune theirs for the taking.

Of course, there is another small group of hardy readers out there, namely the Shadow Panel, and if I’m honest, our views can be pretty significant, too.  Let me put it this way – I’m not saying that winning our Shadow Prize last year had a lot to do with a certain translator working on a BTS book, but I’m not *not* saying that either…

In any case, even if the money isn’t the same (there isn’t any), our winner (to quote Iron Chef) will gain the people’s ovation and fame forever.  Which is nice.  So who takes it?  Whose cuisine book reigns supreme?


Cheon Myeong-kwan’s Whale
(Europa Editions, translated by Chi-Young Kim)

Cheon’s enjoyable romp through Korean history is our second consecutive winner from the country, and our third in eight years.  Europa haven’t had a lot of luck with Booker lists over the years, but this marks a welcome change for them, and it may even end with an official nod, too.  There’s a history lesson here for those who wish to absorb it, but if that sounds like too much hard work, you can simply enjoy the ride along with a psychic elephant, a woman communing with bees and a cinema in the shape of a massive whale – all great fun 🙂

However, that was far from the only book we enjoyed this year, and we also have an Honourable Mention for 2023:

Clemens Meyer’s While We Were Dreaming
(Fitzcarraldo Editions, translated by Katy Derbyshire)

Fitzcarraldo can always be relied on to produce books vying for our prize, and 2023 was no exception.  Even if it didn’t make the official shortlist, Meyer’s fragmented look back at a childhood both mundane and startling is a superb depiction of life before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and if I’m honest, this was my personal favourite this year.

For the last few years, we’ve been using our “Eurovision” voting system to come to a consensus, with each judge ranking the six books on the Shadow Shortlist and awarding them points (don’t forget – we were ranking the books on our own Shadow Shortlist, not the official one).  There were ten points for best-in-show, seven for the next best, then five, three, two and one.  Eight judges participated in this final round, which meant each book could get a maximum of eighty points and a minimum of eight points – and this is how the voting played out:

                                  1st) Whale (47 points)
                                  2nd) While We Were Dreaming (44 points)
                                  3rd) Time Shelter (41 points)
                                  4th) Is Mother Dead (40 points)
                                  5th) Boulder (31 points)
                                  6th) The Birthday Party (21 points)

As was the case last year, it was a very close race, and four of the six books were in contention right to the end…

With the main prizes handed out, it’s time to see how those other readers over in London went.  Yes, the official prize announcement will be made on Tuesday evening, local time, and I’m fascinated to see what they go for, particularly given that they chose an (ahem) *interesting* shortlist.  Of course, as is often the case, you’ll find out before I do (I’ll be sleeping) – I’ll catch up with you tomorrow for all the gushing praise and horrified uproar 😉


8 thoughts on “And the (Shadow) IBP 2023 Winner Is…

  1. Good prediction! And thanks for sharing your judging method. We used to do something like that when I was in the shadow Giller and we had an independent person tot up the votes so we couldn’t cheat! I have Whale on my digital TBR and look forward to reading it at some point.


    1. Kim – I must admit that the others trust me to collate the results, and I always do mine before I look at the other scores. Proof I’m honest is that my books rarely win!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, Whale didn’t win the official prize (but then look how close your vote was) but it was the book that made the biggest impression on me, which continued to grow after I had read it.


    1. Grant – It’s funny that I picked it to be longlisted yet I felt no inclination to pick it up again! Just one of those books I was happy to read and not revisit…


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