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#MBI2019: the shadow panel’s shortlist

Drum roll, please…

We’ve read the books (all the longlisted titles were read by at least eight of our eleven panellists, and most were read by at least ten). We’ve given our scores, crunched the numbers, and now we can present our shadow shortlist for this year’s Man Booker International Prize:

  • Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, tr. Marilyn Booth (Sandstone Press).
  • The Years by Annie Ernaux, tr. Alison L. Strayer (Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg, tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner (MacLehose Press).
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, tr. Anne McLean (MacLehose Press).
  • The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zeran, tr. Sophie Hughes (And Other Stories).

The first thing to note here is the degree of overlap with the official shortlist: only one book is different (we have The Faculty of Dreams rather than The Pine Islands). Sadly, this similarity has come about in part because we found the longlist quite weak overall, so there weren’t as many good books to choose from as there have been in the past.

Nevertheless, there are some fine books on this shortlist, and we have interesting discussions in store before we choose a winner. The official Man Booker International winner will be announced on the evening of 21 May, and we’ll reveal our shadow winner shortly before then.

Read my other posts on the 2019 Man Booker International Prize here.

#MBI2019: the official shortlist

The official shortlist for this year’s Man Booker International Prize was announced on Tuesday:

  • Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, tr. Marilyn Booth (Sandstone Press).
  • The Years by Annie Ernaux, tr. Alison L. Strayer (Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann, tr. Jen Calleja (Serpent’s Tail).
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, tr. Anne McLean (MacLehose Press).
  • The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zeran, tr. Sophie Hughes (And Other Stories).

Generally speaking, I think this is a good shortlist. I do have my reservations: I’m not keen on The Pine Islands, and this list leaves off my favourite book from the longlist (The Faculty of Dreams, which I’ll be reviewing next). But you can’t go far wrong with the rest of the shortlist.

We’ll be announcing the shadow panel’s shortlist next Thursday, 18 April. It’s not finalised yet, but it should make an interesting point of comparison with the official shortlist.

Read my other posts on the 2019 Man Booker International Prize here.

International Dylan Thomas Prize blog tour: House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

My post today is part of a blog tour for the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, which is awarded to a novel written in English by a writer aged 39 or under (39 being the age at which Dylan Thomas died). The a blog tour is looking at the books on the longlist. The book I’ve chosen is House of Stone, the debut novel by Zimbabwean writer Novuyo Rosa Tshuma.

House of Stone is narrated by the orphaned 24-year-old Zamani, who lives with Abednego and Agnes Mlambo. He would like to be more than a lodger in this family and sees his chance when the Mlambos’ son Bukhosi goes missing. In an effort to ingratiate himself with the couple he refers to his “surrogate” father and mother, Zamani asks Abednego and Mama Agnes about their lives. He tries his best to oil the wheels:

We spent the whole of yesterday seated in the sitting room, in a battle of wills, me trying to get [Abednego] to take just one sip of the whisky, he pursing his lips, glaring at the wall, willing Bukhosi to reappear, declaring himself to be mute unless the boy popped up abracadabra before his eyes, and snapping at me to shurrup when he I pleaded with him to continue with his story.

Despite initial reluctance, Abednego does continue with his story, as does Agnes. Through their accounts, Tshuma explores the history of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, while telling an intriguing family story. Zamani also has secrets of his own, adding up to a multi-layered and engaging book.

Book details

House of Stone (2018) by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, Atlantic Books, 374 pages, hardback. [Paperback published on Thursday 4 April.]

Take a look at the other stops on the blog tour in the graphic above. The shortlist of the Dylan Thomas Prize will be announced on Tuesday 2 April.

Man Booker International Prize 2019: let the shadowing begin!

It’s that time of year again: time for the Man Booker International Prize. As ever, I will be reading along with the shadow panel. This year, I tried to make an effort to get ahead by reading more in advance (I’d read 16 eligible titles, which is more than usual). The longlist was announced today:

  • Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, tr. Marilyn Booth (Oman, Sandstone Press).
  • Love in the New Millennium by Can Xue, tr. Annelise Finegan Wasmoen (China, Yale University Press).
  • The Years by Annie Ernaux, tr. Alison L. Strayer (France, Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong, tr. Sora Kim-Russell (South Korea, Scribe).
  • Jokes for the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf, tr. Jonathan Wright (Palestine/Iceland, Granta).
  • Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli, tr. Sam Taylor (France, Granta).
  • The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann, tr. Jen Calleja (Germany, Serpent’s Tail).
  • Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin, tr. Megan McDowell (Argentina, Oneworld).
  • The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg, tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner (Sweden, MacLehose Press).
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Poland, Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, tr. Anne McLean (Colombia, MacLehose Press).
  • The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa, tr. Sam Garrett (Netherlands, Scribe).
  • The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zeran, tr. Sophie Hughes (Chile, And Other Stories).

After all my preparation, I have read a grand total of one book on this list, which just goes to show how many ways this prize can go. Much of this list is an unknown quantity to me: even the book I’ve read (Drive Your Plow) is one I’ll have to read again, because I didn’t know what I thought of it the first time. I’m disappointed that Convenience Store Woman and T Singer especially didn’t make the cut, but I am hopeful of finding gems on the longlist; in particular, I’m looking forward to reading Samanta Schweblin again, having loved Fever Dream.

More generally, I’m pleased to see such a strong showing for small publishers (particular congratulations to Scribe and Sandstone, who are longlisted for the first time). It’s also notable that the list as a whole skews away from Europe and male writers.

(A couple of housekeeping points: although The Years is part of Fitzcarraldo’s essay list, it was published as a novel in France, and was accepted for submission by the Booker after discussion with the publisher. The Faculty of Dreams and The Pine Islands were due to be published in April, but have both been brought forward to 21 March).

My fellow shadow panel members this year are Tony, Bellezza, Emma, Oisin, Naomi, Barbara, Vivek, Paul, Frances, and Antonomasia. Do pay them a visit.

The official MBIP shortlist will be announced on 9 April, with the winner to follow on 21 May. Until then, I will be reading and reviewing as many of the books as I can. Let’s go!

Man Booker International Prize 2018: and the winner is…

I’m late in covering this, as the Man Booker International winner was announced last Wednesday. Although the official and shadow shortlists had only two books in common, the judges came to the same conclusion as the shadow panel: Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (tr. Jennifer Croft) took the Prize. Congratulations to both author and translator, and of course to publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions.

#MBI2018 Shadow Panel Winner

It’s been ten weeks since the Man Booker International Prize longlist was announced, and in that time the Shadow Panel has been working away in the background, reading frantically while discussing the merits and flaws of the selected titles. From the thirteen books we were given by the official judges, we chose a shortlist of six (only two of which made the official cut!), and off we set again, to reread as much as possible in the time we had. Then we discussed the books a little more before voting for our favourites, culminating in the choice of our favourite work of translated fiction from the previous year’s crop. And who might that be?

THE WINNER OF THE 2018 SHADOW MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE IS:

OLGA TOKARCZUK’S FLIGHTS
(FITZCARRALDO EDITIONS, TRANSLATED BY JENNIFER CROFT)

Congratulations to all involved! While not a unanimous decision, Flights easily won the majority of votes from our judges. In fact, in the seven years we’ve been shadowing the prizes (IFFP, then MBIP), this was the clearest winner by far, showing how impressed we were by Tokarczuk’s integration of seemingly disparate pieces into a mesmerising whole. Thanks must also go to Croft for her excellent work on the book – as always, it’s only with the help of the translator that we’re able to read this book at all…

A special mention should also go to Fitzcarraldo Editions. This is their second consecutive MBIP Shadow Prize (we selected Mathias Énard’s Compass as our winner for 2017), and having also come close with Énard’s Zone in 2015 (which wasn’t even selected for the official IFFP list that year!), they have proved to be one of the UK’s rising stars of fiction (and non-fiction) in translation. We look forward to seeing whether they can continue to provide titles for the longlist in future years.

*****
And that’s it for 2018…

Firstly, thank you to the rest of our Shadow Panel. While Tony, Bellezza and Lori were around to help once more, it was a new-look team this year, with Paul, Vivek, Naomi, Oisin and Frances joining the crew. It’s been fascinating to compare our opinions about the books, even (or especially!) when we disagreed about them. Here’s hoping that we can do it all again next year!

Secondly, a shout-out to all the readers and commenters out there. It’s heartening to have people appreciate our endeavours, and when people say that they’re following the prize vicariously through our reviews and comments, even if they don’t have time to read all the books themselves, it makes us feel as if the whole process is worth it.

Finally, thank you to the official judges for taking the time to read an awful lot of books in order to select the cream of the crop (although occasionally there’s a suspicion that the milk has gone rather sour…). We hope that their final choice (to be announced about twenty-four hours after ours) is a worthy winner to round off this year’s prize. Who will it be? Come back soon to find out…

Adapted from an original post on Tony’s Reading List.

Man Booker International Prize 2018: the shadow panel’s shortlist

The scores are in, and we have our shadow shortlist:

  • The Impostor by Javier Cercas, tr. Frank Wynne (Spain, MacLehose Press).
  • The White Book by Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith (South Korea, Portobello Books).
  • Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, tr. Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff (Argentina, Charco Press).
  • The Flying Mountain by Christoph Ransmayr, tr. Simon Pare (Austria, Seagull Books).
  • Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Jennifer Croft (Poland, Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming-Yi, tr. Darryl Sterk (Taiwan, Text Publishing).

Go, Went, Gone and Frankenstein in Baghdad receive honourable mentions from the shadow panel.

We’ve ended up with quite a different shortlist from the official one (only two titles in common) – but of course that’s all part of the fun!

The winner of this year’s MBIP will be announced on 22 May, with the shadow winner revealed shortly before.

Man Booker International Prize 2018: the shortlist

The judges of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize announced their shortlist on Thursday:

  • Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes, tr. Frank Wynne (France, MacLehose Press).
  • The White Book by Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith (South Korea, Portobello Books).
  • The World Goes On by László Kraznahorhai, tr. John Bakti, Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes (Hungary, Tuskar Rock Press).
  • Like a Falling Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina, tr. Camilo A. Ramirez (Spain, Tuskar Rock Press).
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, tr. Jonathan Wright (Iraq, Oneworld).
  • Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Jennifer Croft (Poland, Fitzcarraldo Editions).

I ended up prioritising reading over reviewing this year, so I haven’t been talking much about the longlist on here. Suffice it to say that my two favourite books were Frankenstein in Baghdad and The White Book (which I still hope to review), so I’m pleased to see them both on the shortlist.

We’ll be announcing the shadow panel’s shortlist this coming Thursday. Watch this space…

The Dinner Guest – Gabriela Ybarra (#MBI2018)

The opening of Gabriela Ybarra’s debut novel (longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize) explains its title:

The story goes that in my family there’s an extra dinner guest at every meal. He’s invisible, but always there. He has a plate, glass, knife and fork. Every so often he appears, casts his shadow over the table and erases one of those present.

The first to vanish was my grandfather.

[translation by Natasha Wimmer]

The novel narrates and juxtaposes two deaths in the author’s family; a prefatory note suggests that this is Ybarra’s way of trying to come to terms with what happened.

The first part of The Dinner Guest focuses on Ybarra’s grandfather Javier, a Basque politician who was kidnapped by separatists in 1977 (six years before the author was born), then killed after a month of unsuccessful negotiations. The second section mostly concerns the death from cancer of Ybarra’s mother. There lies the contrast at the novel’s heart: on the one hand, public events which are told at a certain remove; on the other, a more private, intimate loss.

There are some poignant moments as Ybarra depicts her mother’s decline, but the novel is also striking when she brings the different strands together. For example, Ybarra searches the internet for images of the man who sent her father a package bomb in 2002, and finds herself experiencing a particular that she can’t quite pin down:

Looking at pictures of him, I feel the same way I do when I look at images of cancer cells. I don’t think about the threat, but about the story conjured up. The images of the tumours look like galaxies, and when I look at them, I tell myself stories about space.

It’s that impulse, to make stories out of what could be seen as threatening, which drives the form of this novel. The intersection of those different stories is intriguing.

This post is part of a series on the 2018 Man Booker International Prize; click here to read the rest.

Book details

The Dinner Guest (2015) by Gabriela Ybarra, tr. Natasha Wimmer (2018), Harvill Secker, 160 pages, paperback (source: review copy).

Man Booker International Prize 2018: the longlist

Here we go! The shadow panel are ready, and yesterday the judges announced their longlist of thirteen titles:

  • The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet, tr. Sam Taylor (France, Chatto & Windus).
  • The Impostor by Javier Cercas, tr. Frank Wynne (Spain, MacLehose Press).
  • Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes, tr. Frank Wynne (France, MacLehose Press).
  • Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, tr. Susan Bernofsky (Germany, Portobello Books).
  • The White Book by Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith (South Korea, Portobello Books).
  • Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, tr. Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff (Argentina, Charco Press).
  • The World Goes On by László Kraznahorhai, tr. John Bakti, Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes (Hungary, Tuskar Rock Press).
  • Like a Falling Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina, tr. Camilo A. Ramirez (Spain, Tuskar Rock Press).
  • The Flying Mountain by Christoph Ransmayr, tr. Simon Pare (Austria, Seagull Books).
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, tr. Jonathan Wright (Iraq, Oneworld).
  • Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Jennifer Croft (Poland, Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming-Yi, tr. Darryl Sterk (Taiwan, Text Publishing).
  • The Dinner Guest by Gabriela Ybarra, tr. Natasha Wimmer (Spain, Harvill Secker).

The titles above will turn to links as I review the books. To date, I have managed to read a grand total of one, Frankenstein in Baghdad, though I haven’t reviewed it yet (spoiler: it’s excellent). I have another six of them to hand, and have been looking forward to reading all of them. The books I don’t know also sound intriguing; this is going to be an exciting month-or-so of reading.

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