JADE ON: The Man Booker International Prize longlist

Article published on March 10, 2016.

In its first outing since merging with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Man Booker International Prize has revealed this year’s longlist of titles in the running for the accolade of the best in global fiction, encompassing as it does literary fiction translated into English. I must admit it’s been a prize that has always escaped me, but my own project to read around the world for newbooks/Nudge has opened my eyes to translated fiction and what the world has to offer. Given this new perspective, the Man Booker International Prize is now particularly interesting to me – better late than never – not least in cultivating my reading list.

Indeed, as luck should have it, only one of the countries I’ve ‘visited’ so far (Finland) features on the longlist of thirteen titles, and even so, it’s a book and author that’s new to me – White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen. In factI haven’t read any of the thirteen titles, although there are a few on there that have been making considerable waves, not least Elena Ferrante’s fourth and final instalment in the Neapolitan novels series, The Story of the Lost Child. I must admit that despite the hype that surrounds this series, it’s not one that I’ve really been drawn to but it’s been met with largely universal praise on top of its now being longlisted for this prize, so it must be doing a lot right.

South Korean author Han Kang’s The Vegetarian is also a title that has come to my attention, being something of a visceral and unsettling read. The Four Books – a novel about the Great Famine in China – and Death by Water about an author’s struggle with writer’s block have also crossed my radar and the two authors Yan Lianke and Kenzaburō Ōe are leading writers in their respective countries; Lianke having notched up everything from the Man Asian Prize to the Franz Kafka Prize, as well as being shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2012 and a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize the following year, and Ōe having won all of Japan’s major literary awards across a career spanning nearly fifty years as well as being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994.

Another Nobel Prize winner graces this year’s longlist – Turkish author Orhan Pamuk whose novel A Strangeness in my Mind, described as ‘a love story and modern epic set in Istanbul’, is one that I will definitely be seeking out. As well as being awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006, Pamuk has also received awards globally for his works, including in his native Turkey, as well as France, Italy, Germany and the UK, winning the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 1990.

French novelist Marie Ndiaye, whose novel Ladivine is included in the longlist, has been awarded both the Prix Femina and Prix Goncourt in her native France as well as being shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013. She is joined on the longlist by fellow French author Maylis de Kerangal, a new name for me, whose novel Mend the Living, which navigates the story of a heart transplant, sounds like a spectacular read. France is the only country represented with two nominations, although Austria also has dual interest, in the form of Robert Seethaler – A Whole Life – and Fiston Mwanza Mujila – Tram 83 –who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but now lives in Austria.

The final three nominations on the list include Brazilian author Raduan Nassar’s novella A Cup of Rage, Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan’s Man Tiger and Angolan author and previous winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize José Eduardo Agualusa’s A General Theory of Oblivion.

Whilst Europe has the most authors featuring on the longlist, Asia has a strong representation too, with South America and Africa also featured and it’s a nice mix of well-known and new names. For anyone looking for somewhere to start with translated fiction, there are titles on here that should appeal to varying tastes, as for me it’s a timely reminder of the wealth of international literature and the value of translation.

Jade Craddock
March 10, 2016

The 2016 Man Booker International prize longlist:

A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola), translated by Daniel Hahn and published by Harvill Secker.

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (Italy), translated by Ann Goldstein and published by Europa Editions.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea), translated by Deborah Smith and published by Portobello Books.

Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal (France), translated by Jessica Moore and published by Maclehose Press.

Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan (Indonesia), translated by Labodalih Sembiring and published by Verso Books.

The Four Books by Yan Lianke (China), translated by Carlos Rojas and published by Chatto & Windus.

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Democratic Republic of Congo/Austria), translated by Roland Glasser and published by Jacaranda.

A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar (Brazil), translated by Stefan Tobler and published by Penguin Modern Classics

Ladivine by Marie NDiaye (France), translated by Jordan Stump and published Maclehose Press.

Death by Water by Kenzaburō Ōe (Japan), translated by Deborah Boliner Boem (Atlantic Books)

White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen (Finland), translated by Emily Jeremiah & Fleur Jeremiah and published by Peirene Press.

A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk (Turkey), translated by Ekin Oklap and published by Faber & Faber

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler (Austria), translated by Charlotte Collins and published by Picador.

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