Books

Women dominate shortlist for $86K International Booker Prize

The prize recognizes fiction from around the world that is translated into English and published in the U.K. or Ireland.
The winner of the International Booker Prize will be announced on May 19, 2020. (thebookerprizes.com)

Five novels by women have made the 2020 International Booker Prize shortlist.

Previously shortlisted English translator Sophie Hughes is among this year's finalists for Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor.

Hurricane Season, Fernanda Melchor's English-language debut, is about how a murder of an older woman known as the Witch unravels a small Mexican town.

Hughes had appeared on this year's longlist twice for Hurricane Season and Mac and His Problems by Enrique Vila-Matas, which she translated from Spanish alongside Margaret Jull Costa.

The International Booker Prize, worth £50,000 (approx. $86,302 Cdn), is awarded to one book of fiction from around the world that is translated into English and published in the U.K. or Ireland.

The prize money is split equally between the author and translator.

Shokoofeh Azar is an Iranian-Australian author who is nominated for her debut novel, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree. It was translated from Farsi, and the translator remains anonymous due to security reasons. The novel is about is about a young girl fleeing Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Dutch author Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is also nominated for her debut novel, The Discomfort of Evening, which was translated by Michele Hutchison. The novel tells the story of a girl whose brother is killed in a skiing accident.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogowa was first published in Japanese in 1994. It was translated by Stephen Snyder. The novel retells a fable about an island where things disappear, including memories.

The Adventures of China Iron by Argentine writer Gabriela Cabezón Cámara was translated from Spanish by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh. The book is a feminist retelling of the epic 1894 poem Martín Fierro by José Hernández. 

German-Austrian novelist Daniel Kehlmann is the sole male author to make the list, recognized for his novel Tyll, which was translated by Ross Benjamin. Tyll is a 17th century retelling of the German myth of the trickster Tyll Ulenspiegel.

Kehlmann spoke to Eleanor Wachtel on Writers & Company in 2015.

Jonathan Franzen says of German-Austrian novelist Daniel Kehlmann, "[He] has become the go-to guy in Central Europe for engagement with the weirdness of the postmodern world we inhabit." 52:45

There are no Canadian authors or translators on the 2020 shortlist.

Each shortlisted author and translator also receives £1,000.

The 2020 list of finalists features books translated from five languages: Spanish, German, Dutch, Farsi and Japanese. 

There were 124 books up for consideration this year.

The shortlist was selected by a panel of five judges, chaired by Ted Hodgkinson, head of literature and spoken word at the Southbank Centre, and made up of novelist Valeria Luiselli, Lucie Campos, director of the Villa Gillet, France's centre for international writing; translator and writer Jennifer Croft and poet Jeet Thayil.

The winner will be revealed on May 19, 2020.

Omani author Jokha Alharthi and translator Marilyn Booth won the International Booker Prize 2019 for novel Celestial Bodies.

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