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#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…

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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.

Pew by Catherine Lacey: Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize

Today’s post is part of a blog tour covering the shortlist for this year’s Dylan Thomas Prize (the winner of which will be announced on Thursday). I’m reviewing Pew, the third novel by Catherine Lacey. I’ve previously written about her debut, Nobody Is Ever Missing; like that earlier book, Pew focuses on a protagonist who’s elusive even to themself. 

Lacey’s narrator is an individual with no memory or identifiable characteristics. They’re dubbed Pew because they are found in the church of a small American town. The townsfolk welcome Pew at first, but Pew’s reluctance to say anything unnerves them, and their attitudes change. There will be a Forgiveness Festival in town at the end of the week, and the reader has reason to suspect that this may not be as wholesome as it sounds… 

With Pew staying silent, conversations are one-sided. Pew becomes an empty presence, and the town’s inhabitants fill the void with their own stories. The novel explores questions of what makes a person, and how individuals and communities relate to each other. Underneath it all is the figure of Pew, who might be looking for a place to belong, or might not need one after all. Lacey’s book is enigmatic, thought-provoking, and a pleasure to read. 

Published by Granta Books.

#2021InternationalBooker: the shadow panel’s shortlist

After the official International Booker Prize shortlist last month, we on the shadow panel are ready to reveal our shortlist. We’ve scored our reading, crunched the numbers, and this is what rose to the top for us:

  • At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from French by Anna Moschovakis (Pushkin Press).
  • When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West (Pushkin Press).
  • The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken (Lolli Editions).
  • Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, translated from Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette (Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale (Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý, translated from Swedish by Nichola Smalley (And Other Stories).

For the first time, our group shortlist matches my personal top six – so, as you can imagine, I’m especially happy with this selection. The International Booker winner will be announced on Wednesday 2 June, and we’ll have our shadow winner by then as well.

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

#2021InternationalBooker: the official shortlist

The shortlist for this year’s International Booker Prize was announced on Thursday:

  • At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from French by Anna Moschovakis (Pushkin Press).
  • The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell (Granta Books).
  • When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West (Pushkin Press).
  • The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken (Lolli Editions).
  • In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale (Fitzcarraldo Editions).
  • The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard, translated from French by Mark Polizzotti (Picador).

This is one of those occasions where the shortlist comes from a slightly different parallel reading universe as far as I’m concerned. At the time of writing this post, I have read (though not reviewed) all of the shortlisted books except When We Cease to Understand the World. I’ve heard great things about that book and expect to rate it highly… Most of the others would make by own personal shortlist… But I don’t rate The War of the Poor so highly. Just that one book makes such a difference.

Anyway, this is part of what makes reading along with the prize so enjoyable. The shadow panel will be announcing our own shortlist later. In the meantime, I’ll continue to post reviews and read the last couple of books I have left.

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

#2021InternationalBooker: Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý

With some books, the voice is key, and here’s one of them. The narrator of Wretchedness is a cellist living in Malmö. As the novel begins, he’s waiting by the canal for a couple of friends and colleagues, a guitarist and composer. He is approached by a homeless man who wants a smoke. As the cellist speaks to this man, he is reminded of his own past, the poverty he escaped. He realises that, if life had turned out differently, he could have been this guy. 

The book then switches back and forth between the cellist’s past and present, contrasting the hard realities of his earlier life with his more abstract thoughts on music, in a torrent of language. Here he is, for example, discovering the freeing power of the radio:

…I listened and thought and listened and soon learnt to recognise the sounds I liked, the ones that sounded different to the ones I was used to, but also words and sounds that in different ways related to the life I recognised, the pain and the rage and the shame and the hate and the madness, like when I, at Eleonora’s place, got to hear Godflesh and Slayer for the first time, and at that point, as I listened, it was like my life got better, like it really, properly, got noticeably better just cos some guy had stood there yelling in a studio…

translation from swedish by nichola smalley

The dense, chapter-long paragraphs of Wretchedness suggest that maybe this man can’t outrun his past after all, because it’s so inextricably mixed up with his present thoughts. Whatever the case, this book is a vivid and powerful journey for the reader.

Published by And Other Stories.

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

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