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Six ‘implicitly optimistic’ novels make the International Booker prize shortlist

Six ‘implicitly optimistic’ novels make the International Booker prize shortlist

Korean writer Hwang Sok-yong and German author Jenny Erpenbeck appear on this year’s International Booker shortlist, which features books exploring “divided families and divided societies”, according to prize administrator Fiammetta Rocco.

Hwang is shortlisted for his ninth novel translated into English, Mater 2-10, translated by Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae. The nearly 500-page novel traces a century of Korean history through the story of three generations of a family of rail workers and a laid-off factory worker. In her Guardian review, Maya Jaggi said it provides “a worker’s-eye view of the 20th-century history surrounding Korea’s partition”. It is the third year running that a South Korean author has been shortlisted for the prize.

While the six-strong shortlist is “implicitly optimistic”, the books engage “with current realities of racism and oppression, global violence and ecological disaster”, said judging chair and broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel. The winning author and translator, due to be announced at a London ceremony on 21 May, will each receive £25,000. Each shortlisted winner and translator will receive £2,500.

Erpenbeck is shortlisted for Kairos, translated by Michael Hofmann, which tells the story of a relationship set against the collapse of the German Democratic Republic. While the novel is “bleak in its view of love and politics, spending time with Erpenbeck’s rigorous and uncompromising imagination is invigorating all the way to the final page,” wrote Natasha Walter in her Guardian review.

Brazilian author Itamar Vieira Junior is shortlisted for his debut novel, Crooked Plow, translated by Johnny Lorenz. The novel looks at the lives of subsistence farmers in Brazil’s poorest region, three generations after the 1888 abolition of slavery. Its “deep dive into the quilombo communities offers a unique window into a world where the legacy of resistance and the fight for land rights weave through the personal and collective narratives of its characters, a perspective rarely captured with such intimacy and authenticity,” said the judges.

Wachtel was joined on the judging panel by poet Natalie Diaz, novelist Romesh Gunesekera, visual artist William Kentridge and writer, editor and translator Aaron Robertson. The panel selected the shortlist from a longlist of 13 titles, which featured four authors from South America, signalling a “second ‘boom’ in Latin American fiction”, according to Rocco. The longlist was chosen from 149 books published in the UK and/or Ireland between 1 May 2023 and 30 April 2024.

Selva Almada is the fourth author from Argentina to be shortlisted since 2020, with her novel Not a River, translated by Annie McDermott. The “deceptively simple” novel about three men going fishing on a river “slowly reveals a deep sense of foreboding and memories of trauma,” said judges.

Longlisted books that did not make the shortlist include A Dictator Calls by Ismail Kadare, translated by John Hodgson; The Silver Bone by Andrey Kurkov, translated by Boris Dralyuk; and The House on Via Gemito by Domenico Starnone, translated by Oonagh Stransky.

Swedish writer Ia Genberg was shortlisted for The Details, translated by Kira Josefsson, in which a woman bedridden with a high fever revisits books and memories from her past. “The nonlinear narrative renders the protagonist both vivid and obscure – the perfect conduit for this compelling, uncannily precise meditation on transience,” wrote Hephzibah Anderson in the Observer.

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Completing the shortlist is Dutch author Jente Posthuma with What I’d Rather Not Think About, translated by Sarah Timmer Harvey, which is narrated by a twin whose brother has recently killed himself. “The book’s raw exploration of a sibling relationship, coupled with a rare authenticity in depicting the process of mourning, provides a narrative that’s both uniquely insightful and tender in its humanity,” said the judges.

Previous winners of the prize include Han Kang, Olga Tokarczuk and Lucas Rijneveld. Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov and translator Angela Rodel won the 2023 prize for Time Shelter.

To explore all the books on the shortlist for the International Booker prize 2024 visit guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

Source: theguardian.com