The Man Booker International Prize is one of the few major literary prizes that holds any interest to me. As many people know I am focusing more on reading books in translation and my goal is to have at least 50% of all my books be translation (currently sitting at 52% for the year so far). So when the longlist for this prize was announced late last night I paid attention. Unsurprisingly I had only read one of the books mentioned on the list, War and Turpentine (will post a review in the next few days). The Man Booker International Prize is a celebration of the finest fiction from around the world that have been translated into English. The prize awards the winning book £50,000 which is split equally between the author and the translator.
However, the main concern I have for the list was the lack of women in translation (only 26% of books translated into English are by female authors). I counted three out of thirteen books written by women; Swallowing Mercury, Fever Dream and Mirror, Shoulder, Signal. This gender imbalance is something I am struggling with in my own reading life as well, I have become very aware just how many women authors in translation there are and I feel I need to make more of an effort to balance my reading. I am even at the point where I am thinking about only buying books in translation if they were written by a woman, just to get more of a balance on my bookshelves. Having said that I am pleased to see a more even balance with the translators, with seven of the thirteen translators being women.
Another imbalance I have noticed with the longlist is to do with where the books are from. I count one book from South America and only three from Asia (including Yan Lianke from China who is the only author to return from last year’s longlist). France and Israel have two authors in the longlist. Though this is where the age old debate on how to classify these books comes in once again. Alain Mabanckou who was longlisted for his book Black Moses shows as French on the list, though he was born in the Republic of the Congo and currently resides in the United States of America.
I have often entertained the notion of reading the entire longlist of a prize like this but the lack of availability has often stopped me. I have found only five of the thirteen books in my library and have immediately reserved the four I have not read. If I were to read the entire longlist I would have to resort to my e-reader, an option that does not interest me. Although I have noticed an increasing need to use ebooks because of availability.
I will continue to read more books in translation, though I am not one to read recent releases. I hope to talk more about the books in this longlist as I read them but if you are interested in the Man Booker International prize I would recommend following the shadow jury. A group of book bloggers get together to write the entire longlist and blog about it; trying to predict the shortlist and winner.
Have you read any of the longlist? and if so, I would love to know what you are predicting to be on the shortlist or the winner. War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans is my current pick, not just because it is the only novel I have read but it is likely to make my top books of 2017 list. Let me know your thoughts on the longlist and the Man Booker International Prize in the comments below.
The 2017 Man Booker international prize longlist
- Compass by Mathias Énard (France), translated by Charlotte Mandell and published by Fitzcarraldo Editions
- Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg (Poland), translated by Eliza Marciniak and published by Portobello Books
- A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman (Israel), translated by Jessica Cohen and published by Jonathan Cape
- War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (Belgium), translated by David McKay and published by Harvill Secker
- The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (Norway), translated by Don Bartlett and published by MacLehose Press
- The Traitor’s Niche by Ismail Kadare (Albania), translated by John Hodgson and published by Harvill Secker
- Fish Have No Feet by Jón Kalman Stefánsson (Iceland), translated by Philip Roughton and published by MacLehose Press
- The Explosion Chronicles by Yan Lianke (China), translated by Carlos Rojas and published by Chatto & Windus
- Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou (France), translated by Helen Stevenson and published by Serpent’s Tail
- Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer (Germany), translated by Katy Derbyshire and published by Fitzcarraldo Editions
- Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors (Denmark), translated by Misha Hoekstra and published by Pushkin Press
- Judas by Amos Oz (Israel), translated by Nicholas de Lange and published by Chatto & Windus
- Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina), translated by Megan McDowell and published by Oneworld