Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies, Annie Ernaux’s The Years, Marion Poschmann’s The Pine Islands, Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s The Shape of the Ruins, and Alia Trabucco Zeran’s The Remainder have been announced as the six authors and works shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize.
In total 108 works were submitted for consideration. This huge selection was initially trimmed to a longlist of thirteen titles by the judging panel - historian, author and broadcaster Bettany Hughes, writer and translator Maureen Freely, philosopher Professor Angie Hobbs, novelist and satirist Elnathan John, and essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra - before announcing this final shortlist of six.
The International Man Booker Prize, is awarded annually for a single book - novel or short-story collection - translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland. And, the work of authors and translators on the shortlisted books is considered to be equally important, with the £50,000 prize being split between them.
On Monday 20 May, the day before the winner is announced, all of the shortlisted authors and translators will appear here at Southbank Centre for a special International Man Booker Prize Readings event. Until then, here’s a little more about each of the shortlisted works, their authors and translators.
translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth
published in the UK by Sandstone Press Ltd
Elegantly structured, Celestial Bodies tells of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves. Jokha Alharti’s novel begins with three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. Following these three women and their families, in the village of al-Awafi, the story also charts Oman’s growth from the late 1800s to the early years of the 21st century.
Jokha Alharti completed a PhD in Classical Arabic Poetry in Edinburgh, and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. She has been shortlisted for the Sahikh Zayed Award for Young Writers and her short stories have been published in English, German, Italian, Korean, and Serbian.
Born in Boston USA, Marilyn Booth holds the Khalid bin Abdallah Al Saud Chair for the Study of the Contemporary Arab World, Oriental Institute and Magdalen College, Oxford. In addition to her academic publications, she has translated many works of fiction from Arabic.
translated from French by Alison L. Strayer
published in the UK by Fitzcarraldo Editions
Considered by many to be the iconic French memoirist’s defining work, Annie Ernaux’s The Years was a breakout bestseller when first published in France in 2008. It is a personal narrative of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present, photos, books, songs, radio, television and decades of advertising, headlines, contrasted with intimate conflicts and writing notes from six decades of diaries throughout which the voice we recognize as the author’s continually dissolves and re-emerges.
Annie Ernaux is a French writer, born in Lillebonne, Normandy in 1940. She came to prominence in 1984 when she won the Prix Renaudot for her book La Place, an autobiographical narrative focusing on her relationship with her father and her experiences growing up in a small town before moving into adulthood and away from her hometown.
Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, Alison L. Strayer is a writer and translator, whose work has been shortlisted twice for the Governor General’s Award for Literature and for Translation. She has also been shortlisted for the Grand Prix du Livre de Montreal and the Prix Litteraire France-Quebec, and longlisted for the Albertine Prize.
translated from German by Jen Calleja
published in the UK by Profile Books, Serpent's Tail
Winner of the Berlin Prize for Literature, Marion Poschmann’s The Pine Islands follows Gilbert Silvester who, on waking one day from a dream that his wife has cheated on him, flees - immediately, irrationally, inexplicably - for Japan. In Tokyo he discovers the travel writings of the great Japanese poet Basho and suddenly his directionless journey has a purpose: a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the poet. Serene, playful and profound, The Pine Islands is a story of the transformations we seek and the ones we find along the way.
Born in Essen in 1969, Marion Poschmann is a prize-winning poet and novelist, having won both of Germany's premier poetry prizes. She has also been shortlisted for the German Book Prize on three occasions and won the 2013 Wilhelm Raabe Literature Prize.
Born in Shoreham-by-Sea, Jen Calleja is a writer, musician and translator of German literature. She was the inaugural Translator in Residence at the British Library and her translations have been featured in The New Yorker and The White Review. Her debut poetry collection Serious Justice (2016) is published by Test Centre.
translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
published in the UK by Fitzcarraldo Editions
In a remote Polish village, Janina devotes the dark winter days to studying astrology, translating William Blake poetry, and looking after summer homes of wealthy Warsaw residents. She has a reputation locally as a recluse, preferring the company of animals over humans. But when a neighbour turns up dead, and other bodies are discovered, Janina is certain she knows whodunit. Will anyone listen to her? Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a provocative thriller that explores of the murky borderland between sanity and madness, and whose voice is worth heeding.
Olga Tokarczuk is a Polish writer, activist, and public intellectual who has been described as one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful authors of her generation. She is the current holder of the International Man Booker Prize, having won it in 2018 for her novel Flights (translated by Jennifer Croft), the first Polish writer to win the award.
Born in Oxford, Antonia Lloyd-Jones translates from Polish and was the 2018 winner of the Transatlantyk Award for the most outstanding promoter of Polish literature abroad. A former co-chair of the UK Translators Association, she has translated works by several of Poland’s leading contemporary novelists and authors.
translated from Spanish by Anne McLean
published in the UK by Quercus, MacLehose Press
The Shape of the Ruins is Juan Gabriel’s Vásquez’s most ambitious, challenging and rewarding novel to date, taking the form of personal and formal investigations into two seismic political assassinations. Separated by more than 30 years, the two murders at first appear unconnected, but as the novel progresses Vásquez reveals how between them they contain the seeds of the violence that has bedevilled Colombia ever since.
Born in Bogota in 1973, Juan Gabriel Vásquez is a Colombian writer and the author of five novels, all of which have been translated by Anne McLean. He is perhaps best known for his 2011 book The Sound of Things Falling for which he became the first South American writer to win the International Dublin Literary Award.
Born in Hamilton, Canada, Anne McLean has translated Latin American and Spanish novels, stories, memoirs and other writings by many high profile authors. She has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize twice, and in 2012 was awarded the Spanish Cross of the Order of Civil Merit.
translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes
published in the UK by And Other Stories
Felipe and Iquela, two young friends in modern day Santiago, live in the legacy of Chile’s dictatorship. Felipe walks the streets counting dead bodies real and imagined, aspiring to a perfect number that might offer closure. Iquela and Paloma, an old acquaintance from Iquela’s childhood, search for a way to reconcile their fragile lives with their parents’ violent militant past. When the body of Paloma’s mother gets lost in transit, the three are sent on a pisco-fueled journey up the cordillera as they confront the pain that stretches across generations.
Alia Trabucco Zerán was born in Chile in 1983. Awarded a Fulbright scholarship for her MFA in Creative Writing at New York University, she holds a PhD in Spanish and Latin American Studies. The Remainder is her debut novel, for which she won the Chilean Council for the Arts’ prize for Best Unpublished Literary Work in 2014; the book was also chosen by El País as one of its top ten debuts of 2015.
Born in Chertsey, Sophie Hughes has translated novels by several contemporary Latin American and Spanish authors, including Best Translated Book Award 2017 finalist Laia Jufresa’s Umami. Her translations, reviews and essays have been published in The Guardian, The White Review, Times Literary Supplement.
On Monday 20 May - the night before the prize is awarded - we welcome these authors and translators here to Southbank Centre for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize Readings. There will be readings of the shortlisted works in both English and their original language, plus conversation around the books as well as a Q&A and book signing.