Man Booker International: Irish translator has two books on list

Frank Wynne’s translations of Javier Cercas’s The Impostor and Virginie Despentes’s Vernon Subutex 1 up for £50,000 prize

The Man Booker International Prize celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world. It is awarded every year for a single book translated into English and published in the UK.


An Irish translator has made the 13-strong longlist for this year’s £50,000 Man Booker International Prize not once but twice, for translations from two languages.

Frank Wynne, from Strandhill, Co Sligo, has been nominated for his tranlations of The Impostor by Spanish writer Javier Cercas and Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes, both published by MacLehose Press.

He has previously won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for his translation of Windows on the World by Frédéric Beigbeder and the IMPAC/Dublin Literary Festival Prize in 2002 for Atomised (The Elementary Particles) by Michel Houellebecq.

The 13 longlisted books have been translated from 10 different languages, across Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East. Previous winners Han Kang (2016) and László Krasznahorkai (2015) are both on the longlist, for The While Book and The World Goes On respectively.

Other popular choices on the longlist include The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor; Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky; Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright; and The Dinner Guest by Gabriela Ybarra, translated by Natasha Wimmer and reviewed here last Saturday.

Also of particular Irish interest is The Flying Mountain by Christoph Ransmayr, translated by Simon Pare. It tells the story of two brothers who leave the southwest coast of Ireland on an expedition to Tibet, looking for an untamed, unnamed mountain that represents perhaps the last blank spot on the map.

The prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world, is awarded every year for a single book, which is translated into English and published in the UK. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible. The work of translators is equally rewarded, with the £50,000 prize divided between the author and the translator of the winning entry. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000 each. The judges considered 108 books.

The longlist was selected by a panel of five judges, chaired by Lisa Appignanesi OBE, author and cultural commentator, with Michael Hofmann, poet, reviewer and translator from German; Hari Kunzru, author of five novels including The Impressionist and White Tears; Tim Martin, journalist and literary critic, and Helen Oyeyemi, author of novels, plays and short stories including The Icarus Girl.

Appignanesi said: “Judging this Man Booker International Prize has been an exhilarating adventure. We have travelled across countries, cultures, imaginations, somehow to arrive at what could have been an even longer longlist. It’s one which introduces a wealth of talent, a variety of forms and some writers little known in English before. It has great writing and translating energy and we hope readers take as much pleasure in discovering the work as we did.”

The shortlist of six books will be announced on April 12th and the winner on May 22nd. Last year’s winner was A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen.

“I came to translation almost by accident,” Wynne told Authors & Translators magazine. “I left Ireland (and an unfinished degree in English and Philosophy) at the age of 22 and moved to Paris. I had never been to France, or indeed anywhere very much and had only school French meaning that my rather halting speech (there was no oral examination in Ireland in the late 70s) sounded rather like that way Maupassant writes.

“Literary translation allows me the privilege of ‘writing’ novels I could never imagine, of attempting to find a voice for authors and their characters, of working with the nuts and bolts of language to try and recreate narratives I love and admire.”

The Longlist for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize:

The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet, Translated by Sam Taylor (Harvill Secker)
Roland Barthes is knocked down in a Paris street by a laundry van. It’s February 1980 and he has just come from lunch with François Mitterrand, a slippery politician locked in a battle for the Presidency. Barthes dies soon afterwards. History tells us it was an accident. But what if it were an assassination? What if Barthes was carrying a document of unbelievable, global importance? A document explaining the seventh function of language - an idea so powerful it gives whoever masters it the ability to convince anyone, in any situation, to do anything.

Laurent Binet was born in Paris, France, in July 1972. His first novel, HHhH, was an international bestseller. It won the prestigious Prix Goncourt for a first novel and was shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year. Binet won the Prix de la FNAC and Prix Interallié for The 7th Function of Language.

Sam Taylor was born in Nottinghamshire, UK, in 1970. He began his career as a journalist with The Observer. In 2001, he quit his job and moved to southwest France, where he wrote four novels, learned French, and raised a family. In 2010, he translated his first novel: Laurent Binet’s HHhH. He now lives in the United States and works as a literary translator and author.

The Impostor by Javier Cercas, Translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press)
The Impostor is a true story that is packed with fiction - fiction created by its main character, Enric Marco. But who is Enric Marco? A veteran of the Spanish civil war, a fighter against fascism, an impassioned campaigner for justice, and a survivor of the Nazi death camps? Or, is he simply an old man with delusions of grandeur, a charlatan who fabricated his heroic war record, who was never a prisoner in the Third Reich and never opposed Franco, but simply a charming, beguiling and compulsive liar who refashioned himself as a defender of liberty and who was unmasked in 2005 at the height of his influence and renown?

In this novel - part narrative, part history, part essay, part biography, part autobiography - Javier Cercas unravels the man and delves with passion and honesty into the most ambiguous aspects of what makes us human - our infinite capacity for self-deception, our need for conformity, our thirst for affection and our conflicting needs for fiction and for the truth.

Javier Cercas was born in Ibahernando, Spain, in 1962. He is a novelist, short-story writer and columnist whose books include Soldiers of Salamis (which sold more than a million copies worldwide, won six literary awards in Spain and was filmed by David Trueba), The Tenant and the Motive, The Speed of Light and The Anatomy of a Moment. His books have been translated into more than 20 languages. He lives in Barcelona.

Frank Wynne was born in Co Sligo, Ireland, in April 1962. He is an award-winning translator from French and Spanish. His previous translations include works by Pierre Lemaitre, Patrick Modiano and Michel Houellebecq. He lives in London.

Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes, Translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press)
Vernon Subutex was once the proprietor of Revolver, an infamous music shop in Bastille. His legend spread throughout Paris. But by the 2000s, with the arrival of the internet and the decline in CDs and vinyl, his shop is struggling. When it closes, Subutex is out on a limb, with no idea what to do next. Nothing sticks. Before long, his savings are gone, his employment benefit is cut, and when the friend who had been covering his rent dies suddenly, Subutex finds himself relying on friends with spare sofas and ultimately alone and out on the Paris streets. But, as he is stretching out his hand to beg from strangers in the street, a throwaway comment he made on Facebook is taking the internet by storm.

Vernon does not realise this, of course. It has been many weeks since he was able to afford access to the internet, but the word is out: Vernon Subutex has in his possession the last filmed recordings of Alex Bleach, famous musician and Vernon’s benefactor, who recently died of a drug overdose. Unbeknownst to Vernon, a crowd of people, from record producers to online trolls and porn stars, are now on his trail.

Virginie Despentes was born in Nancy, France, in June 1969. She is a writer and filmmaker, and former maid, sex worker and freelance rock journalist. Her first novel, Baise-Moi, the controversial rape-revenge story, was published in 1992 and adapted for film in 2000. Upon release it became the first film to be banned in France for 28 years. She is the author of over 15 further works, including Apocalypse Baby (2010) and Bye Bye Blondie (2004) and the autobiographical essay, King Kong Theory (2006).

Frank Wynne was born in Co Sligo, Ireland, in April 1962. He is an award-winning translator from French and Spanish. His previous translations include works by Pierre Lemaitre, Patrick Modiano and Michel Houellebecq. He lives in London.

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, Translated by Susan Bernofsky (Portobello Books)
Newly retired Richard is considering his new life without his work as a university professor. He spends his days cooking, pottering in his garden and walking around his home city of Berlin - a place he has lived his entire life. Following an excursion to Alexanderplatz he befriends a group of African men whose camp is being pulled down by the authorities. These asylum seekers have found their way to Berlin from all over Africa by way of Libya and then Italy. They have no ‘right’ to be in Berlin, and they must follow the protocols and rules if they have any hope in being allowed to remain.

Richard is captivated by their stories and by their predicament. Born during World War II, he was almost lost as a baby due to the ‘chaos of war’. He grew up and worked in East Berlin until one day East and West unified and his home and horizons changed dramatically. Go, Went, Gone is a novel that explores some of the most important issues of the day of race, immigration and the question of European identity.

Jenny Erpenbeck was born in Berlin, Germany, in March 1967. She is the author of The Old Child & The Book of Words (2008), Visitation (2010) and The End of Days (2014, winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize), all published by Portobello. Her fiction is published in 14 languages.

Susan Bernofksy was born in Cleveland, USA, in July 1966. She has translated works by Robert Walser, Hermann Hesse, Gregor von Rezzori, Yoko Tawada, Ludwig Harig and Franz Kafka. She is the author of Foreign Words: Translator-Authors in the Age of Goethe and is currently at work on a biography of Robert Walser. Her translation of The Old Child and Other Stories was awarded the 2006 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize.

The White Book by Han Kang, Translated by Deborah Smith (Portobello Books)
An unnamed narrator moves to a European city where she is haunted by the story of her older sister, who died a mere two hours after birth. As she contemplates the child’s short life she focuses on the whiteness and all it symbolises. The White Book is a meditation on colour, beginning with a list of white things. It is a book about mourning, rebirth and the tenacity of the human spirit. It investigates the fragility, beauty and strangeness of life.

Han Kang was born in Gwangju, South Korea, in November 1970, and moved to Seoul at the age of 10. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. Her writing has won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today’s Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. The Vegetarian, her first novel to be translated into English, was published by Portobello Books in 2015 and won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. She is also the author of Human Acts (Portobello, 2016). She is based in Seoul.

Deborah Smith was born in Doncaster, UK, in December 1987. Her translations from the Korean include two earlier novels by Han Kang, The Vegetarian and Human Acts, and two by Bae Suah, A Greater Music and Recitation. In 2015 Deborah completed a PhD at SOAS on contemporary Korean literature and founded Tilted Axis Press. In 2016 she won the Arts Foundation Award for Literary Translation.

Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, Translated by Sarah Moses & Carolina Orloff (Charco Press)
In a patch of dilapidated French countryside, a woman struggles with the demons of her multitudinous internal conflicts. Embracing exclusion, yet desiring to belong, craving freedom whilst feeling trapped, yearning for family life and yet wanting to burn the entire façade down. Given surprising leeway by her family for her increasingly erratic behaviour, she instead feels ever more incarcerated, stifled. Motherhood, womanhood, the mechanization of love, the inexplicable brutality of having ‘your heart live in someone else’s’; these questions are faced with raw intensity. It is not a question of whether a breaking point will be reached, but rather when, and how violent a form will it take.

Ariana Harwicz was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December 1977. She studied screenwriting and drama in Argentina, earning a first degree in Performing Arts from the University of Paris VII as well as a Master’s degree in comparative literature from the Sorbonne. She has taught screenwriting and written two plays, which have been staged in Buenos Aires. Die, My Love is her first novel to be translated into English. It was named best novel of 2012 by the Argentinian daily La Nación and is currently being adapted for theatre in Buenos Aires and in Israel, and has just been republished by Mardulce in Argentina. It is the first of an ‘involuntary’ trilogy, followed by La débil mental (Feebleminded) (2014) and Precoz (Precocious) (2015). She is writing a new novel entitled Racista (Racist), to be published in 2018.

Sarah Moses was born in Toronto, Canada, in October 1980. She is a writer and translator. Her stories, translations, and interviews have appeared in chapbook form as well as in various journals, including The Argentina Independent and Brick. She is Asymptote’s Editor-at-Large for Argentina, and divides her time between Buenos Aires and her native Toronto.

Carolina Orloff was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in July 1977. She is a researcher in Latin American literature and an experienced translator, working both in English and in Spanish. Her translations include texts by contemporary Latin American writers as well as Virginia Woolf’s short stories. In 2016, she co-founded Charco Press where she acts as Main Editor.

The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai, Translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes (Tuskar Rock Press)
A Hungarian interpreter obsessed with waterfalls, at the edge of the abyss in his own mind, wanders the chaotic streets of Shanghai. A traveller, reeling from the sights and sounds of Varanasi, encounters a giant of a man on the banks of the Ganges ranting on the nature of a single drop of water. A child labourer in a Portuguese marble quarry wanders off from work one day into a surreal realm alien from his daily toils. The World Goes On is a collection of 21 unforgettable stories from the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2015.

László Krasznahorkai was born in Gyula, Hungary, in January 1954. He is the author of The Last Wolf, War & War, The Melancholy of Resistance, Seiobo There Below, all published by Serpent’s Tail, and several other works. He has won numerous prizes, including the Man Booker International Prize 2015, 2013 Best Translated Book Award, and 1993 Best Book of the Year Award in Germany.

John Batki was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1942. He is a kilimologist, writer, translator, and visual artist. He was born in Hungary and has lived in the United States since age 14.

Ottilie Mulzet was born in Toronto, Canada in July 1960. She is a Hungarian translator of poetry and prose, as well as a literary critic. She has worked as the English-language editor of the internet journal of the Hungarian Cultural Centre in Prague, and her translations appear regularly at Hungarian Literature Online. She received the Best Translated Book Award in 2014 for her translation of László Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below.

George Szirtes was born in Budapest, Hungary in November 1948. He is a British poet and translator from Hungarian into English. Originally from Hungary, he has lived in the UK for most of his life after coming to the country as a refugee at the age of eight. He has won a variety of prizes for his work, most recently the 2004 T. S. Eliot Prize, for his collection Reel and the Bess Hokin Prize in 2008 for poems in Poetry magazine. His translations from Hungarian poetry, fiction and drama have also won numerous awards. Szirtes lives in Wymondham, Norfolk, having retired from teaching at the University of East Anglia in 2013. He is married to the artist Clarissa Upchurch, with whom he ran The Starwheel Press and who has been responsible for most of his book jacket images.

Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina, Translated by Camilo A. Ramirez (Tuskar Rock Press)
On 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King was murdered by James Earl Ray. Before Ray’s capture and sentencing to 99 years’ imprisonment, he evaded the FBI for two months as he crossed the globe under various aliases. At the heart of his story is Lisbon, where he spent 10 days attempting to acquire an Angolan visa. Aided by the recent declassification of James Earl Ray’s FBI case file, Like a Fading Shadow weaves a taut retelling of Ray’s assassination of King, his time on the run and his eventual capture, tied together with an honest examination of the novelist’s own past.

Antonio Muñoz Molina was born in Ubeda, Spain, in January 1956. He is the author of more than a dozen novels, including In the Night of Time (also published by Tuskar Rock), Sepharad, and A Manuscript of Ashes. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards including Spain’s National Narrative Prize, the Planeta Prize and the Príncipe de Asturias Prize. He lives in Madrid and New York City.

Camilo A. Ramirez was born in Bogotà, Columbia, in July 1985. He is a literary translator, editor and media strategist based in New York City.

The Flying Mountain by Christoph Ransmayr, Translated by Simon Pare (Seagull Books)
The Flying Mountain tells the story of two brothers who leave the southwest coast of Ireland on an expedition to Transhimalaya, the land of Kham, and the mountains of eastern Tibet - looking for an untamed, unnamed mountain that represents perhaps the last blank spot on the map. As they advance toward their goal, the brothers find their past, and their rivalry, inescapable, inflecting every encounter and decision as they are drawn farther and farther from the world they once knew. Only one of the brothers will return. Transformed by his loss, he starts life anew, attempting to understand the mystery of love, yet another quest that may prove impossible.

Christoph Ransmayr was born in Wels, Upper Austria, in March 1954, and grew up in Roitham near Gmunden and the Traunsee. From 1972 to 1978 he studied philosophy and ethnology in Vienna. He worked in Vienna as cultural editor for the newspaper Extrablatt from 1978 to 1982, also publishing articles and essays in GEO, TransAtlantik and Merian. After his novel Die letzte Welt (The Last World) was published in 1988 he travelled extensively in Ireland, Asia, North and South America. After his marriage in 2006, Ransmayr returned to live in Vienna. His books have been translated into over 30 languages. His prodigious travels provided the material for Atlas of an Anxious Man, also published by Seagull Books.

Simon Pare was born in Pembury, UK, in July 1972, and grew up in Shropshire. He studied French and German at Cambridge University. After an MSc in Sustainable Agriculture, Simon worked in Fairtrade in Paris before becoming a literary translator in 2006. His published translations include Atlas of an Anxious Man by Christoph Ransmayr (2016), the bestselling The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (2015) and Richard von Schirach’s The Night of the Physicists (2015).

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, Translated by Jonathan Wright (Oneworld)
From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, the junk dealer Hadi collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and give them a proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed. Hadi soon realizes he’s created a monster, one that needs human flesh to survive - first from the guilty, and then from anyone who crosses his path. As the violence escalates and Hadi’s acquaintances - a journalist, a government worker and a lonely old woman - become involved, the ‘Whatsitsname’ and the havoc it wreaks assume a magnitude far greater than anyone could have imagined.

Ahmed Saadawi was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in May 1973. He is a novelist, poet, screenwriter and documentary filmmaker. He is the first Iraqi to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, commonly called the Arabic Booker Prize, which he won in 2014 for Frankenstein in Baghdad. In 2010 he was selected for Beirut39, as one of the 39 best Arab authors under the age of 40. He lives in Baghdad.

Jonathan Wright was born in Hampshire, UK, in December 1953. He studied Arabic at Oxford University. He is the translator of Hassan Blasim’s The Iraqi Christ, which won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2014. He lives in London.

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, Translated by Jennifer Croft (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Flights is a novel about travel in the 21st century and human anatomy. From the 17th century, we have the story of the real Dutch anatomist Philip Verheyen, who dissected and drew pictures of his own amputated leg, discovering in so doing the Achilles tendon. From the 18th century, we have the story of a North African-born slave turned Austrian courtier stuffed and put on display after his death in spite of his daughter’s ever more desperate protests, as well as the story of Chopin’s heart as it makes the covert journey from Paris to Warsaw, stored in a tightly sealed jar beneath his sister’s skirt. From the present we have the trials and tribulations of a wife accompanying her much older professor husband as he teaches a course on a cruise ship in the Greek islands, the quest of a Polish woman who emigrated to New Zealand as a teenager but must now return to Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and the slow descent into madness of a young husband whose wife and child mysteriously vanished on a vacation on a Croatian island and then appeared again with no explanation.

Through these narratives, interspersed with short bursts of analysis and digressions on topics ranging from travel-sized cosmetics to the Maori, Flights guides the reader beyond the surface layer of modernity and towards the core of the very nature of humankind.

Olga Tokarczuk was born in Sulechow, Poland, in January 1962. In 2015 she received the Brueckepreis and the prestigious annual literary award from Poland’s Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, as well as Poland’s highest literary honour, the Nike and the Nike Readers’ Prize. Tokarczuk also received a Nike in 2009 for Flights. She is the author of eight novels, two short-story collections and has been translated into a dozen languages.

Jennifer Croft was born in Oklahoma, USA, in September 1981. She is the recipient of Fulbright, PEN and National Endowment for the Arts grants, as well as the Michael Henry Heim Prize, and her translations from Polish, Spanish and Ukrainian have appeared in the New York Times, n+1, Electric Literature, The New Republic, BOMB, Guernica and elsewhere. She holds a PhD from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She is a founding editor of The Buenos Aires Review.

The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming-Yi, Translated by Darryl Sterk (Text Publishing)
Cheng, a novelist, once wrote a book based on his father’s disappearance 20 years ago. One day he receives a reader’s email asking whether his father’s bicycle disappeared as well. Perplexed and amused, Cheng decides to track down the bicycle, which was stolen years ago. The search takes him on an epic quest, deep into the secret world of antique bicycle collectors via a scavenger’s treasure trove and the mountain home of an aboriginal photographer. He also finds himself caught up in the strangely intertwined stories of Lin Wang, the oldest elephant who ever lived, the soldiers who fought in the jungles of South-East Asia during the World War II and the secret worlds of the butterfly handicraft makers… The Stolen Bicycle is both a historical novel about bicycles, elephants and war, and a startlingly intimate meditation on memory, family and home.

Wu Ming-Yi was born in Taipei, Taiwan in June 1971. He is one of Taiwan’s most innovative young novelists, who has won the China Times Open Book Award six times. He is also an associate professor at National Dong Hwa University in Hualian, Taiwan and an expert of the history of Taiwanese environmental literature. He was first recognized for two book-length works of literary essays about butterflies, Butterfly Way (2000) and Beguiled by Butterflies (2003), before publishing his first novel, Routes of Slumber, in 2007. In 2013, The Man with the Compound Eyes, a metafictional ecological disaster novel, was translated into English by Darryl Sterk and published by Harvill Secker to widespread acclaim. It was the first novel from Taiwan to be published by a major English-language publisher and has been translated into nine languages.

Darryl Sterk was born in Edmonton, Canada, in March 1973. He is an academic based in Hong Kong, with an interest in translation to and from Taiwan’s indigenous languages. A Chinese-English literary translator for a decade, he had contributed to The Taipei Chinese Pen, Pathlight, and other journals. He has translated two novels by Wu Ming-Yi, The Man With the Compound Eyes (Harvill Secker, 2013) and The Stolen Bicycle (The Text, 2017).

The Dinner Guest by Gabriela Ybarra, Translated by Natasha Wimmer (Harvill Secker)
In 1977, three terrorists broke into Gabriela Ybarra’s grandfather’s home and pointed a gun at him in the shower. This was the last time his family saw him alive, and his kidnapping played out in the press, culminating in his murder. Ybarra first heard the story when she was eight, but it was only after her mother’s death, years later, that she felt the need to go deeper and discover more about her family’s past. The Dinner Guest is a novel inspired by what she found. It connects two life-changing events - the very public death of Ybarra’s grandfather and the more private pain as her mother dies from cancer and Gabriela cares for her.

Gabriela Ybarra was born in Bilbao, Spain, in 1983. She currently lives in Madrid, where she writes and works in social media analysis. The Dinner Guest is her first novel and was published to critical acclaim in Spain, where it won the Euskadi Literature Prize 2016. Her work has appeared in publications such as El País, ABC and Revista Eñe.

Natasha Wimmer was born in Iowa, USA, in 1973. She is the translator of Gabriela Ybarra’s The Dinner Guest and Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and 2666. She lives in New York City.

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