The shortlist of six finalists for the 2016 Booker International Prize has been announced. A younger sibling to the more well-known Booker Prize for Fiction (that longlist will be announced in July), it has been given every two years since 2005 to authors who are not citizens of the Commonwealth, for an entire body of work in any language (past winners have included Canadian Alice Munro and US citizens Philip Roth and Lydia Davis).
Now that the main Booker Award is open to all writers in English, regardless of citizenship, the International Award has been changed to one for individual novels in English translation, recognizing not only the authors, but also the translators, a change that the Guardian notes, “should help raise the profile of translated books.”
The judges call this shortlist “exhilarating,” praising its diversity.
The finalist best-known in the US is Elena Ferrante for The Story of the Lost Child: Neapolitan Novels, Book Four, translated by Ann Goldstein (PRH/Europa Editions, Sept. 1, 2015; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample). All the titles in the author’s series have been best sellers here, with even the translator achieving celebrity status.
Also having received attention here is The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith (PRH/Hogarth; Feb. 2, 2016; OverDrive Sample)
A profile of the author in the daily NYT Books section calls the novel, which was published ten years ago in South Korea, a “mesmerizing mix of sex and violence.” The review in the NYT “Sunday Book Review” comes with the warning that nothing can “prepare a reader for the traumas of this Korean author’s translated debut in the Anglophone world.”
The winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature is also among the finalists, Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk for A Strangeness in My Mind, translated by Ekin Oklap (PRH/Knopf, Oct. 20, 2015; BOT; OverDrive Sample)
Daily NYT reviewer Dwight Garner calls this a minor work, lacking the “the visceral and cerebral impact of Mr. Pamuk’s best novels.”
The other titles on the list are:
A Whole Life, Robert Seethaler, translated by Charlotte Collins (Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept. 13, 2016) — “Like John Williams’ Stoner or Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, A Whole Life is a tender book about finding dignity and beauty in solitude. It looks at the moments, big and small, that make us what we are.” — from the description on the Booker site
The Four Books, Yan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas (Perseus/PGW/Legato/Grove Press, March 8, 2016; OverDrive Sample)– ” No other writer in today’s China has so consistently explored, dissected and mocked the past six and a half decades of Chinese communist rule.” — the Guardian
A General Theory of Oblivion, Jose Eduardo Agualusa, translated by Daniel Hahn (PRH/Archipelago, Dec. 15, 2015; OverDrive Sample) — “a wild patchwork of a novel that tells the story of Angola through Ludo, a woman who bricks herself into her apartment on the eve of Angolan independence. For the next 30 years she lives off vegetables and pigeons, and burns her furniture to stay warm. ” — from the description on the Booker site..
The winner of the Prize will be announced on May 16th.