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International Booker Prize 2024 Shortlist

By Grace Briggs-Jones, Maria Sadek, Mythily Merai, and Clara Garnier-Barsanti



The International Booker Prize recognises outstanding literary works originally written in languages other than English, which have been translated and published in the UK or Ireland. The International Booker Prize was established in June 2004; originally presented biennially, it became an annual occurrence starting in 2016. Awarded to one winner, it comprises £50,000 which is divided equally between translator and author. The recipient must have published a single work of fiction or a collection of short stories translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. The shortlisted titles are awarded a cash prize of £5,000. 


The 2024 judging panel are: broadcaster and journalist Eleanor Wachtel, as chair; award-winning poet Natalie Diaz; internationally acclaimed novelist Romesh Gunesekera;  groundbreaking visual artist William Kentridge; and writer, editor and translator Aaron Robertson. A total of thirteen individuals have been shortlisted from 149 books submitted to the prize by publishers. Eleanor Wachtel, the chair of judges, says “Our shortlist, while implicitly optimistic, engages with current realities of racism and oppression, global violence and ecological disaster.”


The shortlisted selection includes numerous works that explore intimate connections – and the emotional aftermath when they end – as well as the equally deep interactions between individuals, societies and the places we call home. Many of the novels examine what occurs when land is claimed, disturbed or disputed. In wildly distinct manners, the six authors look back into the recent past, at split families and nations, to help make sense of the challenges of the present day. The winning book will be announced on 21 May in the Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern. The event will also be live-streamed on the Booker Prizes channels, presented by Jack Edwards. 




First on the list is Not a River by Selva Almada, translated from Spanish by Annie McDermott. A past tragedy. Three men returning to their favourite spot on the river. Will they be able to overcome the ghosts of their pasts? This book is an atmospheric portrayal of rural Argentina, with suppressed violence and foreboding rippling throughout. The judges said the novel “moves like water, in currents of dream and overlaps of time which shape the stories and memories of its protagonists.” With Almada’s signature compelling style, this book has earned its place on the 2024 shortlist.


The second on the list is Mater 2-10 by Hwang Sok-yong, translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae. Centred on three generations of a family of rail workers and a laid-off factory worker staging a high-altitude sit-in, the judges call it “[a] sweeping and comprehensive book about a Korea we rarely see in the West, blending historical narrative of a nation with an individual’s quest for justice.” Coined as an epic, multi-generational tale, Mater 2-10 is another powerful story from Sok-yong and deserving of its place on this year’s shortlist.

 

Next on the list is What I’d Rather Not Think About by Jente Posthuma, translated from Dutch by Sarah Timmer Harvey. The judges said it is “[a] deeply moving exploration of grief and identity through the lives of twins…The author skilfully inflect[ing] tragedy with unexpected humour.” The protagonist is a twin looking back over a shared childhood with her brother who has recently committed suicide, detailing their adult lives and how her brother lost himself and never felt complete. A razor-sharp exploration of a difficult subject, it is worthy of its place on the shortlist.


Up next is Crooked Plow, Itamar Vieira Junior’s debut novel, translated from Portuguese by Johnny Lorenz. Two sisters find an ancient knife beneath their grandmother’s bed in Brazil’s neglected Bahia hinterland, and the violence that follows binds them together forever. The judges coined the book as “[a]n aching yet tender story of our origins of violence…and of the language and silence we need to fuel our tending.” This fiery debut looks at Brazil’s troubled history of political oppression through an unforgettable lens and has secured its place on the shortlist.


Next on our list is Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from German by Michael Hoffman. This spell-binding book draws new focus on the collapse of East Germany by assessing the juxtapositions it created: love and loss, beauty and despair. At its heart, the novel is a love story, although soon the reader begins to see the violence and betrayal that underpins the couple’s story as the novel moves back in time. A must-read for anyone fascinated by this era of history, or for those wanting an unforgiving and rigorous portrayal of love and loss. 


Our final shortlisted book is The Details by Ia Genberg, translated from Swedish by Kira Josefsson. This unique book follows a woman who has been put on bed rest and consequently lets her mind wander to past memories, to revisit the books that shaped her life. The novel focuses on four portraits in particular that illustrate how fragmented memories and experiences make up one person’s life in different ways. This plot allows Genberg to utilise a nonlinear structure to create a whimsical story that champions the power of books.  


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