A Closer Look at the Man Booker International Prize Shortlist

Get to know the finalists before the winner is announced in June

A stack of beautiful books.

Last week, the Man Booker International Prize officially released its shortlist for the 2017 award. This accolade focuses on exceptional literary work translated into English. The lucky winner receives a cash prize of £50,000 (about $64,000) — and this is one prize where the translator gets a cut, too!

In previous years, the international prize was based on a writer’s complete body of work. But 2016 marked the first year that authors and translators entered consideration on the basis of a specific book. Check back in here on June 14th when all of the Man Booker Prizes will be announced. But in the meantime, here’s a primer on the candidates and their work. That’s right — it’s time to get better acquainted with international literature in translation!

The 2017 Man Booker International Prize Shortlist

  • Dorthe Nors, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal (translated from Danish by Misha Hoekstra).

Nors has authored five novels, including the short story collection Karate Chop, which was welcomed with high critical praise, and was a favorite of Electric Lit’s Lincoln Michel in 2014. Nors is the recipient of a Danish Arts Agency’s ‘Three Year Grant’ for her “unusual and extraordinary talent.” You can find more of her work (translated by Misha Hoekstra) right here on Electric Lit:

A Wolf in Jutland: Dorthe Nors On The Writing Life In Denmark

  • Mathias Énard, Compass (translated from French by Charlotte Mandell)

The Washington Post hails Compass, Énard’s third novel to be translated into English, as more timely now than ever. (Mandell also translated Énard’s novels, Zone (2010) and Street of Thieves, (2014). Compass is a story about the complex historical relationships between the East and West, with a particular focus on the shared experience of music.

  • David Grossman, A Horse Walks Into a Bar (translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen).

It may not come as a surprise that a book named after the setup to an old joke is about a comic, but don’t be fooled, this Guardian review warns that A Horse Walks Into A Bar is neither “funny nor an easy read.” What Grossman may lack in levity is compensated fully by its truthfulness to the intersection of suffering and art. His 2014 genre-bending book, Falling Out of Time, was also translated by Jessica Cohen.

  • Roy Jacobsen, The Unseen (translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw)

The Unseen is a best-selling book in Norway about a fishing family living in Barrøy Island, which is perched off the northwestern coast of the mainland. Jacobsen has had an award-studded career. In 1989, he won the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature for a collection of his short stories and he’s been nominated for the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize twice.

  • Amos Oz, Judas (translated from Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange)

Beloved Israeli writer Amos Oz’s latest work is a reimagining of the crucifixion story in which he asserts another version of history: “Judas was not a traitor but, in fact, the truest believer in Jesus’ divinity, more so than even Jesus himself.” According to the New York Times, Oz’s obsession with the story of the ultimate traitor began when he was eight and was called a traitor himself, for befriending a British occupying soldier in Jerusalem.

  • Samanta Schweblin’s, Fever Dream (translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell).

Tobias Carroll recently reviewed Schweblin’s Fever Dream in Electric Lit and came to the conclusion that it was aptly named, yet found it difficult to describe why. He proposed that it may be “the result of some unlikely literary mash-ups: an interrogation blended with a deathbed confession; Gene Wolfe’s sinister/pastoral Peace interwoven with Silvina Ocampo’s hallucinatory tales of class and obsession.” Read the full review here.

Or if you want to get a taste of Schweblin’s genius, read her short story “Birds in the Mouth” in Issue №12 of Electric Lit’s Recommended Reading:

“Birds in the Mouth” by Samanta Schweblin

So, there you have it: your 2017 Man Booker International shortlist. Time to get reading!

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