I have decided to dip my toes into the Man Booker International Prize shortlist this year. I have been following the Man Booker prizes for the past few years now, and have always been intrigued by many of the titles that end up longlisted or shortlisted. I have not decided whether or not to read the entire shortlist, but there are at least 3 titles that I am interested in checking out before the winner is announced on June 13th this year. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Man Booker Prize launched in 1969 and is an annual literary award for fiction for novels that get published in the UK during the year of the award. The Man Booker International Prize; however, is a new annual prize launched in 2016 that awards the prize for fiction that has been translated to English and published in the UK. The winner of this particular prize receives $50,000 and is guaranteed international recognition and a huge increase in sales.
Even though this is a UK based award, the Man Booker and Man Booker International prize is something I have followed for quite awhile now. I think it will be fun to make my own judgements on the books as well as make my predictions on who I think should win. So here goes….
What will I be reading?
‘A Horse walks into a Bar’ by David Grossman
Translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen
Goodreads Synopsis: In a little dive in a small Israeli city, Dov Greenstein, a comedian a bit past his prime, is doing a night of stand-up. In the audience is a district court justice, Avishai Lazar, whom Dov knew as a boy, along with a few others who remember Dov as an awkward, scrawny kid who walked on his hands to confound the neighborhood bullies.
Gradually, as it teeters between hilarity and hysteria, Dov’s patter becomes a kind of memoir, taking us back into the terrors of his childhood: we meet his beautiful flower of a mother, a Holocaust survivor in need of constant monitoring, and his punishing father, a striver who had little understanding of his creative son. Finally, recalling his week at a military camp for youth–where Lazar witnessed what would become the central event of Dov’s childhood–Dov describes the indescribable while Lazar wrestles with his own part in the comedian’s story of loss and survival.
Continuing his investigations into how people confront life’s capricious battering, and how art may blossom from it, Grossman delivers a stunning performance in this memorable one-night engagement (jokes in questionable taste included).
‘Fever Dream’ by Samantha Schweblin
Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
Goodreads Synopsis: A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.
Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel.
‘Judas’ by Amos Oz
Translated from Hebrew by Raquel García Lozano
Goodreads Synopsis: Winner of the International Literature Prize, the new novel by Amos Oz is his first full-length work since the bestselling A Tale of Love and Darkness.Jerusalem, 1959. Shmuel Ash, a biblical scholar, is adrift in his young life when he finds work as a caregiver for a brilliant but cantankerous old man named Gershom Wald. There is, however, a third, mysterious presence in his new home. Atalia Abravanel, the daughter of a deceased Zionist leader, a beautiful woman in her forties, entrances young Shmuel even as she keeps him at a distance. Piece by piece, the old Jerusalem stone house, haunted by tragic history and now home to the three misfits and their intricate relationship, reveals its secrets. At once an exquisite love story and coming-of-age novel, an allegory for the state of Israel and for the biblical tale from which it draws its title, Judas is Amos Oz’s most powerful novel in decades.
and the 3 other short listed novels and possible reads (if I can fit them in)
‘Compass’ by Mathias Enard
Translated from French by Charlotte Mandell
Goodreads Synopsis: As night falls over Vienna, Franz Ritter, an insomniac musicologist, takes to his sickbed with an unspecified illness and spends a restless night drifting between dreams and memories, revisiting the important chapters of his life: his ongoing fascination with the Middle East and his numerous travels to Istanbul, Aleppo, Damascus, and Tehran, as well as the various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers who populate this vast dreamscape. At the center of these memories is his elusive love, Sarah, a fiercely intelligent French scholar caught in the intricate tension between Europe and the Middle East.
With exhilarating prose and sweeping erudition, Mathias Énard pulls astonishing elements from disparate sources—nineteenth-century composers and esoteric orientalists, Balzac and Agatha Christie—and binds them together in a most magical way.
‘The Unseen’ by Roy Jacobsen
Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw
Nobody can leave an island. An island is a cosmos in a nutshell, where the stars slumber in the grass beneath the snow. But occasionally someone tries . . .
Ingrid Barrøy is born on an island that bears her name – a holdfast for a single family, their livestock, their crops, their hopes and dreams.
Her father dreams of building a quay that will connect them to the mainland, but closer ties to the wider world come at a price. Her mother has her own dreams – more children, a smaller island, a different life – and there is one question Ingrid must never ask her.
Island life is hard, a living scratched from the dirt or trawled from the sea, so when Ingrid comes of age, she is sent to the mainland to work for one of the wealthy families on the coast.
But Norway too is waking up to a wider world, a modern world that is capricious and can be cruel. Tragedy strikes, and Ingrid must fight to protect the home she thought she had left behind.
‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ by Dorthe Nors
Translated from Dutch by Misha Hoekstra
Sonja’s over forty, and she’s trying to move in the right direction. She’s learning to drive. She’s joined a meditation group. And she’s attempting to reconnect with her sister.
But Sonja would rather eat cake than meditate.
Her driving instructor won’t let her change gear.
And her sister won’t return her calls.
Sonja’s mind keeps wandering back to the dramatic landscapes of her childhood – the singing whooper swans, the endless sky, and getting lost barefoot in the rye fields – but how can she return to a place that she no longer recognizes? And how can she escape the alienating streets of Copenhagen?
Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is a poignant, sharp-witted tale of one woman’s journey in search of herself when there’s no one to ask for directions.