In the run-up to assess the cream of current literary waves, the Man Booker International prize announced its ambitious longlist on 12 March. Two previous winners compete once more in a list that is dominated by similar heavyweight writers for the 50,000 pound award.
Korean novelist and 2016 winner of this very prize, Han Kang is long listed once more for The White Book. Competing in the race will also be The World Goes On by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, who is frequently tipped as a contender for the Nobel Prize for literature. Krasznahorkai is also the winner of the Man Booker International in 2015.
The judging panel is chaired by author Lisa Appignanesi, and together with poet Michael Hofmann, authors Hari Kunzru and Helen Oyeyemi, and journalist Tim Martin, she considered a total of 108 books. The longlist of 13 books that will go ahead in the race are a rare display of fictional identities and themes.
“It’s a cornucopia of a list – greats people will recognise and some newcomers,” said Appignanesi. She said that judging the award was “exhilarating” for her.
“Every time you pick up a book you’re not only in a different geographical location but in a different form of cultural imagination with a whole different set of traditions to take on board and that in itself is exhilarating,” she said.
Two known figures from Spain – Javier Cercas and Antonio MuAoz Molina – have also made it to the longlist, alongside fellow Spanish writer Gabriela Ybarra for her debut, The Dinner Guest.
Prominent German writer Jenny Erpenbeck is nominated for her novel about African asylum seekers Go, Went, Gone while French novelist Laurent Binet is going to be in the race with The 7th Function of Language.
Appignanesi went on to praise the strong representation from independent publishers on this year’s 13-book longlist: independent presses accounted for more than half of the nominated titles.
“I think we have to raise our hats to independent publishers. It does cost money to translate, it’s harder to publish, harder to sell. But I think the readership for foreign fiction is growing and growing and that can only be a good thing. We’ve always been an island that looks out to the world, and here’s the world coming to us in an extraordinary range of ways. That’s terrific.
“Tastes have shifted in Britain and there’s a great hunger for seeing things afresh, for fresh uses of the novel, fresh work. (Translated fiction) not only opens our minds but it opens our hearts as well. You are living with people as you read,” Appignanesi said.
The longlist also features Argentine author Ariana Harwicz’s Die, My Love, Austrian Christoph Ransmayr’s The Flying Mountain and Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights.
The Man Booker International prize aims to celebrate the “finest works of translated fiction from around the world”. The prize is divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning entry.
The shortlist for the award will be announced on 12 April while the winner will be revealed on May 22.