Category: Awards

#GoldsmithsPrize2022: Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi

The voice of Mona Arshi’s debut novel belongs to Ruby, a young British Indian woman. It’s an expressive voice in this written (or thought) form, but Ruby decided as a girl that she would stop speaking:

The first time I spoke out loud at school I said the word sister and tripped all over it. I tried a second time, and my tongue got caught on the middle-syllable hiss and hovered there. The third time? A teacher asked me a question, and I opened my mouth as a sort of formality but closed it softly, knowing with perfect certainty that nothing would ever come out again.

The scattered vignettes of Somebody Loves You are appropriate for a narrator who’s not used to telling a story to an audience. Still, Ruby’s tale covers a lot of ground in a relatively short length, including growing up, racism and mental health. The latter is explored through the character of Ruby’s mother, and I’m picking it out because I think it’s a good example of how Arshi’s book works.

This is how the subject is introduced:

The day my sister tried to drag the baby fox into our house was the same day my mother had her first mental breakdown.

It’s an arresting line, but one that’s at least as interested in the fox as in Ruby’s mother. Actually, in that whole short chapter, the mother’s mental breakdown is strikingly ‘off-page’. Quite a lot (though by no means all) of what happens in Somebody Loves You happens to characters other than Ruby, and of course she can’t see into their experiences – though she can observe.

Ruby notices that her mother finds respite in the garden – a defined space, so rare in this novel of hazy edges. Gardens become one of the book’s recurring motifs, an anchor point for characters and reader alike. The vignettes of Somebody Loves You build together into quite a powerful whole.

Published by And Other Stories.

Click here to read my other reviews of the 2022 Goldsmiths Prize shortlist.

Goldsmiths Prize shortlist 2022

We’re now in the tenth year of the Goldsmiths Prize, which causes me to reflect on how much my reading tastes have been shaped over that time, by the Prize specifically to an extent, but more broadly by what it represents in championing ‘mould-breaking’ fiction. It wouldn’t be the same without the Goldsmiths, let’s put it that way.

On to this year’s shortlist: let’s see what we’ve got…

  • Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi (And Other Stories)
  • Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press)
  • Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer (Picador)
  • Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi (Faber & Faber)
  • there are more things by Yara Rodrigues Fowler (Fleet)
  • Diego Garcia by Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

I’ve reviewed one of these books already, and Seven Steeples is a worthy contender, with the way it makes character fade into landscape (and vice versa). Helen Oyeyemi has long been a favourite author of mine, so I’m really pleased to see her make this shortlist. The rest is all to be discovered as I read along.

#2022InternationalBooker: and the winner is…

I’m so glad that Tomb of Sand has won the 2022 International Booker Prize. First and foremost, it’s an excellent book, a joy to read.

The International Booker has built up a track record of shining a light on fiction from less commonly translated languages. I hope this win helps bring literature from Indian languages to a wider audience (and that it helps encourage more publishers…).

What I like most of all is that Tomb of Sand got to this position because of people’s passion for it. There is no compromise in the writing, translation, publishing, or indeed the prizegiving. Congratulations to author Geetanjali Shree, translator Daisy Rockwell and publisher Tilted Axis Press for their win, and thanks to everyone at the Booker for a great result!

#2022InternationalBooker: the shadow panel’s winner

Today’s the day: the end of this year’s International Booker cycle, when we find out the official winner this evening. Before then, it’s time for the shadow panel to announce our winner. We chose our own shadow shortlist, and have voted amongst ourselves, awarding the books 10, 7, 5, 3, 2 or 1 points. In the end, there was only one point between the winner and runner-up.

It is my pleasure to announce that this year’s shadow winner, with a grand total of 60 points, is…

Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, tr. Anton Hur (Honford Star)

Cursed Bunny was my favourite book on the longlist, a story collection that will stay with me for a long time.

We also want to give an honourable mention to our second place book: Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, tr. Daisy Rockwell (Tilted Axis Press). I didn’t get to review the book (maybe later), but it was actually my second choice from the longlist, a sprawling tapestry of linguistic exuberance.

Thanks to my fellow shadow panellists Tony, Stu, Meredith, Frances, Vivek, Oisin, Paul and Areeb – excellent companions for this journey, as always.

Now, it’s over to the official judges…

#2022InternationalBooker: the longlist

We now have our longlist for this year’s International Booker Prize, and it’s a striking selection:

  • Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated from Korean by Anton Hur (Honford Star)
  • After the Sun by Jonas Eika, translated from Danish by Sherilyn Hellberg (Lolli Editions)
  • A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated from Norwegian by Damion Searls (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
  • More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman, translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman, translated from French by Leslie Camhi (Virago)
  • Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated from Japanese by Samuel Bett and David Boyd (Picador)
  • Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
  • Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, translated from Korean by Anton Hur (Tilted Axis Press)
  • Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, translated from Indonesian by Tiffany Tsao (Tilted Axis Press)
  • Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated from Spanish by Frances Riddle (Charco Press)
  • Phenotypes by Paulo Scott, translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn (And Other Stories)
  • Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell (Tilted Axis Press)
  • The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Tony has posted the Shadow Panel’s response on his blog, so I won’t say too much more myself. But, if you think back to the last time David Grossman was longlisted for this prize, five years ago, that was a very different longlist: mostly European, five titles from Penguin Random House imprints. This year, most of the authors are from outside of Europe, and two small publishers (Fitzcarraldo and Tilted Axis) make up almost half of the nominated books. I’m really pleased by that change.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reading and reviewing what I can from the longlist, along with the rest of the Shadow Panel. To date, I have read four from the longlist but reviewed only one – and it will take a very special book to dislodge Elena Knows as my favourite. Still, this is all about discovering good books, so let’s go for it.

International Booker Prize 2022: introducing the Shadow Panel

The longlist for this year’s International Booker Prize will be announced on Thursday, so it’s time to convene the Shadow Panel once again. As always, we will be reading and reviewing the books, coming to our own conclusions, then choosing a shadow shortlist and winner – which may, or may not, reflect the ‘official’ ones.

For now, let me introduce you to the members of this year’s Shadow Panel…

Continue reading

Republic of Consciousness Prize 2022: the longlist

It’s time for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, and this year’s longlist is especially intriguing:

  • Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi (And Other Stories)
  • Five Days Untold by Badr Ahmad, tr. Christiann James (Dar Arab)
  • Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga, tr. Melanie Mauthner (Daunt Books)
  • The Beast They Turned Away by Ryan Denns (Epoque Press)
  • Dark Neighbourhood by Vanessa Onwuemezi (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
  • The Song of Youth by Montserrat Roig, tr. Tiago Miller (Fum D’Estampa Press)
  • After the Sun by Jonas Eika, tr. Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg (Lolli Editions)
  • Sterling Karat Gold by Isabel Waidner (Peninsula Press)
  • In the Dark by Anamaria Crowe Serrano (Turas Press)
  • Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, tr. Tiffany Tsao (Tilted Axis Press)

This is a list that really shows the breadth of the Republic of Consciousness Prize: four of the ten titles are short story collections; half of the longlist is in translation. I’m also pleased to see that, even though I think I’m pretty clued up on small publishers, there are still two here which are completely new to me (Dar Arab and Turas). There is always something more to discover.

Sterling Karat Gold is the only nominee I’ve reviewed to date. I was expecting it to be longlisted, and it would be a worthy winner… But I’m excited to see what the rest of the list is like.

I’m planning to take a more relaxed approach to reading along with the Prize this year – in the past, I’ve tried getting through entire longlists before the shortlist announcement, and doing that hardly ever makes it more enjoyable. I am also trying this year to be more selective about the books I review on here, so I won’t necessarily review the whole longlist even if I manage to read all of it. That way, I hope I can get the most out of the experience (and give you some interesting posts to read!).

Congratulations to all the longlisted publishers, authors and translators! Now, let’s get reading…

Goldsmiths Prize shortlist 2021

For me, October means the Goldsmiths Prize. Last year was the first time I’d managed to read the whole shortlist, and it was such an adventure. I was looking forward to this year’s shortlist, and it turns out to be full of books that I want to read:

  • Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett (Jonathan Cape)
  • Assembly by Natasha Brown (Hamish Hamilton)
  • A Shock by Keith Ridgway (Picador)
  • This One Sky Day by Leone Ross (Faber & Faber)
  • Sterling Karat Gold by Isabel Waidner (Peninsula Press)
  • little scratch by Rebecca Watson (Faber & Faber)

As of this post, I have read two: I loved Keith Ridgway’s previous novel, Hawthorn & Child, so I was always going to read A Shock. It didn’t disappoint, and I’m glad it has been recognised here. I hadn’t got along with Isabel Waidner’s work previously, but I anticipated that Sterling Karat Gold might make this prize and/or the Republic of Consciousness. So I decided to get ahead, and I really enjoyed it.

Of the other four nominees, the only author I’ve read is Leone Ross. Her short story ‘The Woman Who Lived in a Restaurant’ left a deep impression on me, so I’m looking forward to reading a full-length novel of hers. I know Claire-Louise Bennett’s name from the reputation of her previous book Pond. Assembly and little scratch are debut works that I’ve heard very good things about. It’s all looking positive to me.

As always, I will link to my reviews of the books in the list above as I post them.

#2021InternationalBooker: and the winner is…

There was never any chance that the International Booker Prize judges would choose the same winner as the shadow panel this year, because we went for Minor Detail, which didn’t make it to the official shortlist (though it should have, if you ask me).

However, I’m pleased because the jury chose my favourite book from the official shortlist, which is…

At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop (tr. Anna Moschovakis)

Congratulations to the winners!

#2021InternationalBooker: the shadow panel’s winner

The official winner of this year’s International Booker Prize will be announced later today. Before then, it’s time to announce the shadow panel’s winner. We choose a winner from our own shadow shortlist, so sometimes it matches the official result, and sometimes… Well, read on.

This was our tenth year of shadowing the International Booker (and its predecessor, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize), but it was also a year of some firsts. We were able to meet virtually via Zoom for the first time – no mean feat when we have members in the UK, Australia, India and USA. We also introduced a ‘Eurovision-style’ scoring system for the shadow shortlist, where each panel member ranked the titles and gave them 10 points, 7, 5, 3, 2 and 1. After adding up the scores, we can now reveal the results:

In 6th place, with 25 points… Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý (tr. Nichola Smalley).

In 5th place, with 31 points… At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop (tr. Anna Moschovakis).

In 4th place, with 37 points… The Employees by Olga Ravn (tr. Martin Aitken).

In 3rd place, with 39 points… When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut (tr. Adrian Nathan West).

In 2nd place, with 52 points… In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova (tr. Sasha Dugdale).

Which means our shadow winner, with a grand total of 68 points, is…

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli (tr. Elisabeth Jaquette)

This is only the second time in shadow panel history that our winner hasn’t appeared on the official shortlist. It’s also another strong showing for Fitzcarraldo Editions, who have published four of our five shadow winners since 2017, and took the top two slots this year.

Congratulations to the shadow winners, and thanks to my fellow shadow panellists: Tony, Stu, Bellezza, Vivek, Frances, Areeb, Barbara and Oisin. It’s been another fun year – I wonder what the official jury will have chosen?

Read my other posts on the 2021 International Booker Prize here.

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