Man Booker International Prize Longlist Predictions

Posted March 12, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Random / 4 Comments

Normally I do not pay attention to the numerous literary awards but The Man Booker International Prize is the exception. I have been following this prize since its reincarnation, when it merged with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP). The main reason I pay attention is to get some reading ideas from the longlist. I never have any intention on reading the entire longlist but I hope to discover new books. As most people know, I have been reading more and more books in translation and it can be hard to discover new books; well, it is getting easier.

Since we are close to the longlist being announced, I thought I would try my hand at predicting some of the books. I know there are some other book bloggers that are better at picking the list, I am talking about the shadow jury, but I thought it would be fun to join the conversation. I love that the Man Booker has helped bring translations into the spotlight and I hope it continues to encourage more people to try new novels.

The White Book by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)

A new Han Kang/Deborah Smith novel is an obvious choice, since they won the first Man Booker International Prize. So expect it to make the longlist, maybe even the shortlist but I would be very surprised if it won the prize. Having only read The Vegetarian, I need to make sure I pick this book up at some point; but Human Acts is on my shelves waiting as well.

The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet (translated by Sam Taylor)

Most of my predictions are books I have yet to read (is that cheating?) but The 7th Function of Language is one of the few I have on my shelves. Laurent Binet had great success with his book HHhH, and his new book seems to be doing just as well. This is a political thriller/satire; sounds like the perfect book for me, so maybe I should push this up my TBR.

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba (translated by Lisa Dillman)

Either Such Small Hands has been doing really well amongst the readers of translated lit, or I am following too many of Portobello Books social media accounts. This dark Spanish novella seems to blend elements of horror and the gothic into the story. Right away, I am reminded of Mariana Enríquez.

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (translated by Jonathan Wright)

One of the only books in my predictions that I have read; Frankenstein in Baghdad won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2014 and only recently translated into English. This novel is a brutal look at life in post-invasion Iraq, yet it is still able to be darkly humorous. If you are a fan of Frankenstein, like I am, there are plenty of references to Mary Shelley’s classic novel.

The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo (translated by Janet Hong)

Having another South Korean author on the list might be a long shot, but I believe The Impossible Fairy Tale might have enough on offer to make the list. The novel explores two grade-school girls trying to navigate life and the society they live in. An eerie and unpredictable coming of age novel might be the perfect combination to gain this a spot on the longlist.

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Jennifer Croft)

The novel won the NIKE Literary Award (Nagroda Literacka NIKE) in 2008, which is Poland’s biggest literary prize. I have not read this book yet, but I have heard nothing but good things. I know it is a book about travel but honestly Flights made my list because I trust Fitzcarraldo Editions to deliver great books in translation, is that not enough?

Lullaby by Leïla Slimani (translated by Sam Taylor)

Also known as The Perfect Nanny, this book has been appearing all over the place. Written by a French author of Moroccan descent, Lullaby offers social criticism on class, race and politics. While this might be too much of a thriller to make the list, I believe Leïla Slimani’s background in journalism and political science might make this more than your average mystery book; it did win the prestigious Prix Goncourt.

The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk (translated by Ekin Oklap)

What Man Booker International longlist would be complete without the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk? At this point, any of this Turkish author’s books that get translated into English are automatically added to the longlist. This book explores life in modern Turkey from the point of view of the middle class, in particular the way Westernisation is effecting traditional culture.

Wildcard predictions

Belladonna by Daša Drndić (translated by Celia Hawkesworth)

I honestly do not know if Belladonna is eligible for the Man Booker International Prize but if it is, I am sure it will make the longlist. While this is an incredible, dense novel, it is worth all the effort. I am disappointed I never wrote a review on this book, but honestly how can you condense it down into an essay? This book demands multiple rereads and I will happily oblige in the future.

Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by Eka Kurniawan (translated by Annie Tucker)

This was the first Eka Kurniawan book I read, but it will not be the last. I am putting this book under my wildcards because I do not know if a novel about trying to get an erection will be taken seriously. Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash was such a joy to read, and I think the way it explores the senselessness of masculinity makes this a must read novel.

Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena (translated by Margita Gailitis)

This book is probably too newly released to make it into the Man Booker International Prize longlist but I wanted to add it anyway. Maybe this is just an excuse of me to buy it but this Latvian novel almost seems tailor made for my reading taste. Soviet Milk explores the effect of Soviet rule on one character and how that in turn effects their relationships with everyone else.

4 responses to “Man Booker International Prize Longlist Predictions

  1. I am eagerly anticipating the long list announcement in an hour or so, and I have seen many of the titles in your list floating around. In my mind, as well! I haven’t read Flights, like everyone else seems to have done, but Fitzcarraldo is always offering a worthy contender. I liked The Red Haired Woman (I like Pamuk), but didn’t think Lullaby (The Perfect Nanny in the US) stellar. Han King has had her day with The Vegetarian (how presumptuous of me!), so I’d like to see someone else win. Won’t it be fun to read these books?!

        • The deeper I dive into this world of translation the more I wish I could get into ebooks. I have been reading The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis on my phone since Christmas but I keep getting distracted by physical books. I have this problem with all ebooks I try to read. Need to find a solution

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