I am no longer a Shadow Jury member for the Man Booker International Prize (‘MBIP’).
For the last four years I have been a member of the Shadow Jury, or more specifically the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (‘IFFP’) Shadow Jury for two years until it merged with the new incarnation of the Man Booker International Prize, which was originally bi-annually and for a body of work, not a single book.. For numerous reasons, I decided that in 2018 I would no longer take part in Shadow Jury duties. During those four years, I read and reviewed fifty-six longlisted titles (the IFFP had longlists of fifteen titles, the MBIP a longlist of thirteen), the thought of cramming in another thirteen titles within the next two months did not appeal.
With David Grossman winning in 2017 for “A Horse Walks Into A Bar” (translated by Jessica Cohen), I felt the award was catering for the “average”, something safe, something that would sell and not prove too difficult for many readers. Of course a “jury” structure also tends towards the average, and although I understand the wisdom of crowds, I am also a believer that when you trend towards an average, the end result is simply that…average.
As regular visitors here would also notice, in recent times I have been leaning towards more weighty, difficult texts, whilst several titles on the MBIP longlist may meet my reading tastes I didn’t want to be forced a reading list of books that may not appeal and of course the pressing timelines. There are other more private reasons for my withdrawal from the Shadow Jury, but they are simply that…private.
Of course, that decision doesn’t mean I am not interested in translated fiction, nor the prize itself, and having a look at the longlist for the 2018 MBIP there are a few books I am sure I will visit, read and review.
Here is the longlist of thirteen titles, chosen by Chair Lisa Appignanesi, and Judges Michael Hofmann, Hari Kunzru, Tim Martin and Helen Oyeyemi. Presented in alphabetical order by Author surname and including (Nationality), Translator, Title, (Publisher)
- Laurent Binet (France), Sam Taylor, “The 7th Function of Language” (Harvill Secker)
- Javier Cercas (Spain), Frank Wynne, “The Impostor” (MacLehose Press)
- Virginie Despentes (France), Frank Wynne, “Vernon Subutex 1” (MacLehose Press)
- Jenny Erpenbeck (Germany), Susan Bernofsky, “Go, Went, Gone” (Portobello Books)
- Han Kang (South Korea), Deborah Smith, “The White Book” (Portobello Books)
- Ariana Harwicz (Argentina), Sarah Moses & Carolina Orloff, “Die, My Love” (Charco Press)
- László Krasznahorkai (Hungary), John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes, “The World Goes On” (Tuskar Rock Press)
- Antonio Muñoz Molina (Spain), Camilo A. Ramirez, “Like a Fading Shadow” (Tuskar Rock Press)
- Christoph Ransmayr (Austria), Simon Pare, “The Flying Mountain” (Seagull Books)
- Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq), Jonathan Wright, “Frankenstein in Baghdad” (Oneworld)
- Olga Tokarczuk (Poland), Jennifer Croft, “Flights” (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
- Wu Ming-Yi (Taiwan), Darryl Sterk, “The Stolen Bicycle” (Text Publishing)
- Gabriela Ybarra (Spain), Natasha Wimmer, “The Dinner Guest” (Harvill Secker)
I am pleased that Jennifer Croft’s translation of Olga Tokarczuk’s “Flights” made the long list, a book I thoroughly enjoyed when I read it last year, from a writer/translator combination that I keep tabs on, and I am eagerly awaiting the massive “The Books of Jakub” (the title may be slightly different in English once translated), apparently coming from Fitzcarraldo Editions in coming years.
I have Laurent Binet’s and Ariana Harwicz’s books on my shelves and am always interested in László Krasznahorkai’s works as well as books published by Seagull Books, which means Christoph Ransmayr’s novel will probably make its way onto my reading list. However, in 2018 there is no pressure on to read thirteen books within a month, I’ll (maybe) get to them at my leisure. Good luck to the new Shadow Jury, may their reading be informed and their discussions robust.