March 25, 2015

The Man Booker International Prize longlist is truly international



It’s OK if you haven’t heard of half of them

The morning after the Folio Prize winner was announced, another prize shortlist came to our attention: the Man Booker International Prize, one of the most interesting prizes around.

Launched in 2004, it is awarded every two years to a writer working in English or a writer whose work has been generally translated into English, and rewards a body of work rather than a new single title. Submissions from publishers are not invited: instead, the panel of judges independently bring authors to the table for judgement and deliberation.

In this way, it’s one of the most inclusive, calm and patient awards in existence, three words not usually associated with book prizes.

This year’s prize was in good hands, with Marina Warner as chair of the judges, a writer who has always looked beyond the Western canon for subject-matter and inspiration. She was joined by the novelist Nadeem Aslam, professor of arabic and comparative literature Wen-chin Ouyang, editorial director of classics at the New York Review Edwin Frank and the writer and academic Elleke Boehmer.

The panel of judges has settled on a list of finalists that is thoroughly and excitingly international. Considering that the past three winners of the prize have been Alice Munro, Philip Roth and Lydia Davis—all worthy winners in their own right—this year’s shortlist is far more wide-ranging in terms of language and geography. Here’s the list, reported by the Bookseller:

The nominated writers are César Aira (Argentina), Hoda Barakat (Lebanon),  Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe), Mia Couto (Mozambique), Amitav Ghosh (India), Fanny Howe (United States of America), Ibrahim al-Koni (Libya), László Krasznahorkai (Hungary), Alain Mabanckou (Republic of Congo) and Marlene van Niekerk (South Africa).

Speaking about the prize, Warner said:

The judges have had an exhilarating experience reading for this prize; we have ranged across the world and entered the vision of writers who offer an extraordinary variety of experiences.

A prize that introduces readers not only to new writers but to new cultures and corners of the world is to be celebrated—whoever wins on 19th May.


Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.