This year’s longlist for the International Booker Prize, which celebrates the finest translated fiction from around the world, features four former winners, Olga Tokarczuk, Jennifer Croft, David Grossman and Jessica Cohen, as well as as three titles by Tilted Axis, a small press founded by another previous winner, Deborah Smith. Translator Anton Hur, a Seoul-based Swede, features twice.
The 13 longlisted novels, chosen from a record 135 submissions, are translated from 10 languages, including Hindi for the first time, and originate from 12 countries ( South Korea, twice; Denmark; Norway; Israel; France; Japan; Mexico; India; Indonesia; Argentina; Brazil; and Poland) across four continents.
- Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated from Korean by Anton Hur
- After The Sun by Jonas Eika, translated from Danish by Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg
- A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated from Norwegian by Damion Searls
- More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman, translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen
- The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman, translated from French by Leslie Camhi
- Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated from Japanese by Samuel Bett and David Boyd
- Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes
- Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, translated from Korean by Anton Hur
- Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, translated from Indonesian by Tiffany Tsao
- Elena Knows by Claudia Pineiro, translated from Spanish by Frances Riddle
- Phenotypes by Paulo Scott, translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
- Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell
- The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft
The longlist was selected by judges Merve Emre, Petina Gappah, Viv Groskop and Jeremy Tiang, chaired by Irish translator Frank Wynne. “Borges famously believed that paradise would be ‘a kind of library’, and spending the past year in the company of some of the world’s great writers and their equally gifted translators has been a kind of heaven,” Wynne said. “From the intimate to the epic, the numinous to the profane, the books make up a passionately-debated longlist that trace a ring around the world. These 13 titles from 12 countries and 10 languages explore the breadth and depth of human experience, and are a testament to the power of language and literature.”
Israeli author Grossman and his translator Cohen won the prize in 2017 for A Horse Walks into a Bar. Polish author Tokarczuk and her translator Croft won in 2018 for Flights. In 2019, Tokarczuk was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The £50,000 prize is split evenly between author and translator. The shortlisted authors and translators will each receive £2,500, up from £1,000, bringing the total value of the prize to £80,000. The shortlist will be announced on April 7th at The London Book Fair and the winner on May 26th. Last year’s winner was At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop, translated by Anna Moschovakis (Pushkin Press).
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur (Honford Star)
While the stories in Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung blend elements of horror, fantasy and the surreal, each is viscerally rooted in the real fears and pressures of everyday life. Chung's richly imaginative collection is translated with verve and evident relish by Anton Hur, who shifts effortlessly from playful to harrowing.
After The Sun by Jonas Eika, translated by Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg (Lolli Editions)
Jonas Eika's darkly surreal After the Sun explores class, capitalism, power and sexuality with an intimacy and eroticism that is as unsettling as it is thrilling. Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg captures these lurid, luminous tales in a translation that dazzles and sears.
A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
A New Name, the final movement in Jon Fosse's monumental Septology, draws together art, death, and the idea of God with a vast, gentle grace. Damion Searls' translation unfurls Fosse's slow sentences with immense precision and beauty.
More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen (Jonathan Cape)
David Grossman's More Than I Love My Life is a tender and immersive multigenerational family novel about the rewards, punishments and dysfunctions of love; about remembering, healing and belonging. In Jessica Cohen's translation, the singular voice of its narrator is conjured with admirable restraint and emotion.
The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman, translated by Leslie Camhi (Virago)
Violaine Huisman's The Book of Mother brings alive the high-drama world of Violaine and her mother, Catherine. This stark, no-holds-barred depiction of a mother-daughter relationship feels incredibly immediate, a beautiful, bold novel translated with a deceptively elegant simplicity by Leslie Camhi.
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd (Picador)
An intense, claustrophobic novel, Heaven uses its tale of middle-school bullying to enact Nietzsche's critique of morality. The power of Sam Bett and David Boyd's translation lies in its ability to communicate both Mieko Kawakami's abstract, philosophical ideas and her harrowing human drama.
Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
In Paradais Fernanda Melchor draws us into the brutish, profane world of two unlikely, hapless teenagers, Polo and Franco, in the gated community where they plot a crime that can only go horribly wrong. Sophies Hughes' endlessly inventive translation breathtakingly captures the book's caustic humour and exhilarating pace.
Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, translated by Anton Hur (Tilted Axis Press)
Love in the Big City is disarmingly confessional but never sentimental, even while sifting through the desolation of human existence. Sang Young Park's lost souls make their way through an uncaring world, seeking and briefly finding, moments of redemption. Anton Hur's brilliantly idiomatic translation conveys a vibrant sense of place.
Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, translated by Tiffany Tsao (Tilted Axis Press)
The bittersweet stories of Norman Erikson Pasaribu's Happy Stories, Mostly, in a translation by Tiffany Tsao that shimmers and soars, range from the heart-wrenching to the absurd, creating a vibrant mosaic of contemporary Indonesia.
Elena Knows by Claudia Pineiro, translated by Frances Riddle (Charco Press)
Elena Knows, Claudia Piñeiro's short and deeply felt novel, evokes the loneliness of ageing and the uncertainty of memory. Frances Riddle's brutal yet sparing translation suggests the shadows and light of noir without ever eclipsing the very human tragedy at the core of the book.
Phenotypes by Paulo Scott, translated by Daniel Hahn (And Other Stories)
A remarkably open and honest study of race, Paulo Scott's Phenotypes grapples with contentious issues we may not yet have the language to discuss, which makes it all the more urgent. Daniel Hahn's masterful translation engages with the text with humility and perceptiveness.
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell (Tilted Axis Press)
The constantly shifting perspectives and timeframes of Geetanjali Shree's inventive, energetic Tomb of Sand lead us into every cranny of an 80-year-old woman's life and surprising past. Daisy Rockwell's spirited translation rises admirably to the complexity of the text, which is full of word play and verve. A loud and irresistible novel.
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Olga Tokarczuk's The Books of Jacob weaves an epic tapestry from the bizarre, mundane, and utterly unpredictable sweep of history as it is created moment by moment, crammed with a staggering cast of characters, places and historical events. Jennifer Croft's lithe, elegant translation nimbly conveys the novel's delicate irony and its ethereal beauty.