Shortlist for the 2023 International Booker Prize announced

Shortlist for the 2023 International Booker Prize announced

May 03, 2023Alan Wong
The shortlist for the 2023 International Booker Prize was announced on 18 April. Six titles from authors across the globe were chosen from the longlist by this year's judging panel chaired by prizewinning French-Moroccan novelist Leïla Slimani. The panel also includes Uilleam Blacker, one of Britain’s leading literary translators from Ukrainian; Tan Twan Eng, the Booker-shortlisted Malaysian novelist; Parul Sehgal, staff writer and critic at the New Yorker; and Frederick Studemann, Literary Editor of the Financial Times.

Formerly known as the as the Man Booker International Prize, the International Booker Prize is awarded each spring for the best single work of fiction translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland. The winner gets £50,000: £25,000 for the author and £25,000 for the translator(s). Last year's prize was won by Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell.

The award is the sister prize of the Booker Prize, formerly known as the Booker Prize for Fiction (1969–2001) and the Man Booker Prize (2002–2019), which is also awarded each year but for the best novel written in English and published in the UK or Ireland. When the Booker Prize was sponsored by the Man Group, the International Booker Prize was created for authors of any nationality who write in English or are widely translated. It originally lauded an author's body of work and was awarded every two years.

"What is extraordinary about literature is that when a novel is successful, it works for anyone, anywhere," says Slimani. "There’s something really magical about storytelling. And we have had the joy of experiencing this by reading the books on this list."

Cover of "Boulder" by Eva Baltasar Boulder by Eva Baltasar
(Translated from Catalan by Julia Sanches)
And Other Stories

The story of two women who are changed when one of them decides to become a mother. Samsa wants a child and she's almost past child-bearing age. "Boulder" isn't enthusiastic but feels compelled to go along. As motherhood alters Samsa , Boulder must choose between love and freedom.

What the Judges Say: "A very intense, poetic, sensual book about all kinds of appetites. A feverish exploration of desire, a vibrant love story between two women, lyrical and simmering, written with lucidity and great freedom of tone. An impressive work of translation."

Cover of "Whale" by Cheon Myeong-kwan Whale by Cheon Myeong-kwan
(Translated from Korean by Chi-Young Kim)
Europa Editions

Set in a remote South Korean village, this novel follows the lives of several characters: the extremely ambitious Geumbok; her mute daughter Chunhui, who communicates with elephants; and a one-eyed woman who controls honeybees with a whistle. Their stories unfold against the backdrop of Korea's transition from a pre-modern to a post-modern society.

What the Judges Say: "...You’ve never read a plot like it: just read it, and be swept away by the sheer joy and energy of the storytelling. It reminded some of us of a seventies comedy show: Cheon Myeong-Kwan has built a believable story out of preposterous situations. The characters aren’t nice – but they’re irresistible. It’s a book to be swallowed by and to live inside for a while."

Cover of "The Gospel According to the New World" by Maryse Condé The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé
(Translated from French by Richard Philcox)
World Editions

A child is born one Easter Sunday, but his origins are a mystery. Rumours have it that he is the child of God, and many signs throughout his life will reinforce them. Pascal sets off in search of his origins, trying to understand what his mission is about.

What the Judges Say: "A joyful and optimistic book by a great storyteller, about the possibility of changing the world. Maryse Condé plays with our need to believe in a messiah, and retells one of the oldest stories with a lot of irony. It’s a deceptively simple novel full of wisdom, generosity of spirit and the writer’s palpable tenderness towards the world and her craft."

Cover of "Standing Heavy" by GauZ’ Standing Heavy by GauZ’
(Translated from French by Frank Wynne)
MacLehose Press

The author draws on his experiences as an undocumented student in Paris to deliver a sharply satirical yet poignant tale of two generations of undocumented Ivoirians working shifts as security guards at a flour mill. They may be standing still, but behind watchful eyes, minds are at work, pondering their lot in life and all that they see.

What the Judges Say: "...As a security guard, the Ivorian protagonist of Standing Heavy is invisible but sees everything. Told in a fragmentary style – as if from different camera angles – this is the story of colonialism and consumerism, of the specifics of power, and of the hope of the sixties diminishing as society turns cynical and corrupt."

Cover of "Time Shelter" by Georgi Gospodinov Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov
(Translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel)
Weidenfeld & Nicolson

In a "clinic for the past" for Alzheimer's sufferers, each floor meticulously reproduces a different decade, transporting patients back in time. Furnishing this clinic is an unnamed narrator who collects relics of the past, from 1960s furniture to scents and even afternoon light. But as more and more healthy people use the clinic to escape reality, the barriers between the past and present crumble, threatening the future.

What the Judges Say: "It’s an inventive novel with an unexpectedly cheeky tone to it. But it’s also a subversive masterclass in the absurdities of national identity: so relevant now.’s a fresh staging of old questions: the danger of selective memory, the inheritance of trauma, and how nostalgia can take a grip on society and become a comfort blanket – or a cancer."

Cover of "Still Born" by Guadalupe Nettel Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel
(Translated from Spanish by Rosalind Harvey)
Fitzcarraldo Editions

Alina and Laura are independent and career-driven women in their mid-thirties who built their futures without thinking of whether to have a family. Laura has had herself sterilised, but as time goes by Alina gradually finds motherhood appealing. What awaits the two?

What the Judges Say: "The plot grabs you so organically it’s as though you’ve been abducted by reading – you feel like you live with these characters. At the end of the book you’ll want to call a friend and ask them to read it too, because none of it is black and white. ... it’s honest, unsentimental and compassionate about the choices we think we’re making, and the choices that are foisted upon us."

The winner of the International Booker Prize is scheduled to be announced on 23 May. Who do you think will win?

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