The Man Booker International Prize is specifically meant for books that have been translated into English and published in the UK. The goal is to encourage more publishing and reading of translations of quality fiction. It is awarded once a year and it comes with a cash prize of £ 50.000 – half for the author and half for the translator.
The shortlist of 2018 has just been announced:
- Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes – translated by Frank Wynne
Publication date: June 29th, 2017
WHO IS VERNON SUBUTEX? An urban legend. A fall from grace. The mirror who reflects us all. Vernon Subutex was once the proprietor of Revolver, an infamous music shop in Bastille. His legend spread throughout Paris. But by the 2000s his shop is struggling. With his savings gone, his unemployment benefits cut, and the friend who had been covering his rent suddenly dead, Vernon Subutex finds himself down and out on the Paris streets. He has one final card up his sleeve. Even as he holds out his hand to beg for the first time, a throwaway comment he once made on Facebook is taking the internet by storm. Vernon does not realize this, but the word is out: Vernon Subutex has in his possession the last filmed recordings of Alex Bleach, the famous musician and Vernon’s benefactor, who has only just died of a drug overdose. A crowd of people from record producers to online trolls and porn stars are now on Vernon’s trail.
- The White Book by Han Kang – translated by Deborah Smith
Publication date: November 2nd, 2017
Writing while on a residency in Warsaw, a city palpably scarred by the violence of the past, the narrator finds herself haunted by the story of her older sister, who died a mere two hours after birth. A fragmented exploration of white things – the swaddling bands that were also her shroud, the breast milk she did not live to drink, the blank page on which the narrator herself attempts to reconstruct the story – unfolds in a powerfully poetic distillation. As she walks the unfamiliar, snow-streaked streets, lined by buildings formerly obliterated in the Second World War, their identities blur and overlap as the narrator wonders, ‘Can I give this life to you?’. The White Book is a book like no other. It is a meditation on a colour, on the tenacity and fragility of the human spirit, and our attempts to graft new life from the ashes of destruction.
- The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai – translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet, George Szirtes
Publication date: November 2nd, 2017
A Hungarian interpreter obsessed with waterfalls, at the edge of the abyss in his own mind, wanders the chaotic streets of Shanghai. A traveller, reeling from the sights and sounds of Varanasi, encounters a giant of a man on the banks of the Ganges ranting on the nature of a single drop of water. A child labourer in a Portuguese marble quarry wanders off from work one day into a surreal realm utterly alien from his daily toils. In The World Goes On, a narrator first speaks directly, tells twenty-one unforgettable stories, then bids farewell (‘for here I would leave this earth and these stars, because I would take nothing with me’). As László Krasznahorkai himself explains: ‘Each text is about drawing our attention away from this world, speeding our body toward annihilation, and immersing ourselves in a current of thought or a narrative…’
- Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina – translated by Camilo A. Ramirez
Publication date: July 18th, 2017
The year is 1968 and James Earl Ray has just shot Martin Luther King Jr. For two months he evades authorities, driving to Canada, securing a fake passport, and flying to London, all while relishing the media’s confusion about his location and his image on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Eventually, he lands at the Hotel Portugal in Lisbon, where he anxiously awaits a visa to Angola. But the visa never comes, and for his last ten days of freedom, Ray walks around Lisbon, paying for his pleasures and rehearsing his fake identities. Using recently declassified FBI files, Antonio Muñoz Molina reconstructs Ray’s final steps through the Portuguese capital, taking us inside his feverish mind, troubled past, and infamous crime. But Lisbon is also the city that inspired Muñoz Molina’s first novel, A Winter in Lisbon, and as he returns now, thirty years later, it becomes the stage for and witness to three alternating stories: Ray in 1968 at the center of an international manhunt; a thirty-year-old Muñoz Molina in 1987 struggling to find his literary voice; and the author in the present, reflecting on his life and the form of the novel as an instrument for imagining the world through another person’s eyes.
- Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi – translated by Jonathan Wright
Publication date: January 23rd, 2018
From the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-occupied Baghdad, Hadi–a scavenger and an oddball fixture at a local café–collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed. Hadi soon realizes he’s created a monster, one that needs human flesh to survive–first from the guilty, and then from anyone in its path. A prizewinning novel by “Baghdad’s new literary star” (The New York Times), Frankenstein in Baghdad captures with white-knuckle horror and black humor the surreal reality of contemporary Iraq.
- Flights by Olga Tokarczuk – translated by Jennifer Croft
Publication date: August 28th, 2017
Flights is a series of imaginative and mesmerizing meditations on travel in all its forms, not only the philosophy and meaning of travel, but also fascinating anecdotes that take us out of ourselves, and back to ourselves. Olga Tokarczuk brilliantly connects travel with spellbinding anecdotes about anatomy, about life and death, about the very nature of humankind. Thrilling characters and stories abound: the Russian sect who escape the devil by remaining constantly in motion; the anatomist Verheyen who writes letters to his amputated leg; the story of Chopin’s heart as it makes its journey from Paris to Warsaw, stored in a tightly sealed jar beneath his sister’s skirt; the quest of a Polish woman who emigrated to New Zealand as a teen but must now return in order to poison her terminally ill high-school sweetheart… You will never read anything like this extraordinary, utterly original, mind-expanding book. Many consider Tokarczuk to be the most important Polish writer of her generation and Flights is one of those rare books that seems to conjure life itself out of the air.
Han Kang and his translator Deborah Smith already won the Man Booker International Prize back in 2016 for their earlier collaboration The Vegetarian. László Krasznahorkai also won this prize before, back in 2015. Last year, the winner was Israeli author David Grossman for his book A Horse Walks Into a Bar, translated by Jessica Cohen. The winner will be announced on May 22, in the Victoria and Albert Museum.