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International Booker Prize 2024 Longlist

By Jane Bentham, Lucy Clark and Rob Tomlinson

With the shortlist for the International Booker Prize to be announced soon on 9 April, let’s take a look at some of the brilliant works that made the longlist.

Crooked Plow by Itamar Vieira Júnior, translated from Portuguese by Johnny Lorenz

Magical realism and socio-political discourse collide in this 2018 novel that follows two sisters from a Black Brazilian family living on a plantation. After the discovery of their grandmother’s knife leads to a life-changing accident, Bibiana and Belonísia are brought irrevocably closer together. Growing up, they begin to confront the unjust oppression that their family faces, including unpaid labour and harsh living conditions. A powerful story of resilience and hope that combines diverse themes of spirituality, family and slavery, Vieria Júnior gives a much-needed voice to the communities in Brazil’s poorest regions.

The House on Via Gemito by Domenico Starnone, translated from Italian by Oonagh Stansky

Originally published in Italy in 2000, The House on Via Gemito has recently been released in English. Set in post-war Naples, this is a close examination of the author’s father Federì, a narcissistic and aggressive painter prevented from fully pursuing his passions due to his familial obligations. The novel becomes Starnone’s attempt to overcome and challenge Federì’s dominance by denouncing his character. Although Starnone tries to dissect his father’s lies, the reliability of his childhood memories is gradually brought into question. Capturing the unique vitality of the Neapolitan setting, this is a poignant and emotional reflection on loyalty, art and the difficulty of breaking away from family ties.

The Silver Bone by Andrey Kurkov, translated from Russian by Boris Dralyuk

Taking place in Kyiv in 1919, this novel is set during a time when the Soviets controlled a volatile city that was seemingly on the brink of rebellion, a time when no one could be trusted and tension was brewing as the White Army remained a constant threat from the West. A violent encounter with two Russian Cossacks at the beginning of this novel sees the protagonist Samson’s father killed and leaves Samson with just one ear, the other having been chopped off. What follows reveals Samson’s severed ear to be an investigative tool when two Red Army soldiers requisition his flat. With his surreal superpower and determination to thwart the Red Army, Samson stumbles into a world of murder and intrigue.

Undiscovered by Gabriela Wiener, translated from Spanish by Julia Sanches

In this compelling autobiographical novel, Gabriela Wiener delves deep into her family history following a museum visit in Paris where she is confronted with her complex ancestry. As she explores the museum’s collections from South America filled with artefacts plundered from her home country Peru, she experiences an inner conflict although she recognises herself in the indigenous artwork. She is faced with the reality that the man responsible for taking these precious artefacts was her great-great-grandfather. Her father’s death compels her to look back on her family history in more depth from the trail of racism and theft left behind by her great-great-grandfather, the Austrian colonial explorer Charles Wiener, to her father’s infidelity. What she discovers is a legacy of abandonment and colonial violence which makes her question how this has impacted her struggles with love and race.

What I’d Rather Not Think About by Jente Posthuma, translated from Dutch by Sarah Timmer Harvey

A simple yet devastating premise is the foundation of What I’d Rather Not Think About: what if one of a pair of twins no longer wants to live and the other is unable to conceive of life without them? The novel’s narrator is a twin whose brother has taken his own life, leading her to re-examine their shared childhood and their growth into adults.

More a collection of memories than a novel, What I’d Rather Not Think About is full of melancholy and surprising humour and through a series of vignettes, explores the narrator’s brother’s attempts to find happiness. She describes how he loses himself in relationships with multiple men and to the Indian mystic Rajneesh movement, while she holds tightly onto the aspects of him that remained unchanged despite everything.

White Nights by Urszula Honek, translated from Polish by Kate Webster

White Nights weaves together thirteen interconnected stories of people who live, or once lived, in a small village in the southern Polish region of Beskid Niski. Employing a polyphonic style, each narrative centres around a different character, as they fight to survive in their bleak surroundings, struggling with tragedy, despair and disappointment. The characters ask not that we, the readers, understand their experiences but merely that we listen and see them, allowing them the space in which to tell their stories. Honek’s debut short story collection, White Nights is startlingly accomplished and beautifully presented by MTO Press.




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