Last week, The Man Booker International Prize announced the names of candidates shortlisted for the 2017 prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world. Six candidates have been chosen, with the final prize to be announced on June 14 this year.
While each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000, the winner goes home with a prize money of £50,000, which will be divided equally between its author and translator.
The shortlisting was done by a panel of five judges, chaired by Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival; the others were: Daniel Hahn, an award-winning writer, editor and translator; Elif Shafak, a prize-winning novelist from Turkey; Chika Unigwe, author of four novels including On Black Sisters’ Street; and Helen Mort, a poet who has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and the Costa Prize, and has won a Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award five times.
The list of candidates:
Author: Mathias Enard (France); Translator: Charlotte Mandell (US); Book: Compass (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
French novelist Mathias Enard’s Compass revolves around Franz Ritter, an Austrian musicologist’s adventure in the Middle East. LA Times describes the book as more on “academics than, say, artists”.
Enard’s first novel published in English, Zone (2010), is a 500-page book that brings out the internal monologue of a French Croatian spy on a train to the Vatican to sell secrets. His second, Street of Thieves (2014), is told from the perspective of a young Moroccan caught up in the hope and chaos of the Arab Spring.
Énard teaches Arabic at the University of Barcelona and has lived for long periods of time in both Syria and Iran. He won the Prix Goncourt in 2015 for Compass.
Charlotte Mendel is a well-known literary translator from the US. She has translated many works of poetry, fiction and philosophy from French to English, including work by Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Jules Verne, Guy de Maupassant, Marcel Proust, Maurice Blanchot, Antoine de Baecque, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Jean-Luc Nancy and Jonathan Littell.
Author: David Grossman (Israel); Translator: Jessica Cohen (US); Book: A Horse Walks Into a Bar (Jonathan Cape)
Israeli novelist David Grossman’s comic novel is one of the books shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. A Horse Walks Into a Bar is set in a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage. The character, Dovale Gee, a veteran stand-up comic reveals a ‘wound’ he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.
Grossman’s books have been translated in more than 30 languages, and have won numerous prizes. He even addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his 2008 novel, To the End of the Land. He has also written a children’s book, an opera for children and several poems.
The translator, Jessica Cohen, was born in England, raised in Israel, and now lives in the US. She translates contemporary Israeli prose and poetry. This is the second of Grossman’s work she has translated. Her other translations include the works of Etgar Keret, Assaf Gavron, Rutu Modan, Amir Gutfreund, Yael Hedaya, Ronit Matalon, and Tom Segev, as well as screenwriters such as Ari Folman and Ron Leshem. Currently, she is a member of the American Translators Association, the Israel Translators Association, the Colorado Translators Association, and PEN American Center.
Author: Roy Jacobsen (Norway); Translators: Don Bartlett (UK); Don Shaw (UK); Book: The Unseen (Maclehose)
Roy Jacobsen is a Norwegian novelist and short-story writer. The Unseen is about Ingrid Barrøy. Born on an island that bears her name – it’s a holdfast for a single family, their livestock, their crops, their hopes and dreams. While her father dreams of building a jetty to connect them to the mainland, her mother has dreams of her own. Tragedy strikes, and Ingrid must fight to protect the home she thought she had left behind.
Jacobsen held a number of jobs, even subsequent to his debut as a novelist in 1982. Since 1990 he has been a full-time author. His first short-story collection Fangeliv (Prison Life) won Tarjei Vesaas’ debutantpris. He is the winner of the prestigious Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature and two of his novels have been nominated for the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize: Seierherrene (The Conquerors) in 1991 and Frost in 2004.
Translators Don Bartlett and Don Shaw live in England and work as freelance translators of Scandinavian literature. Together, they have translated the works of Jacobsen – Child Wonder – and Lazy Days by Erlend Yoe. Don Bartlett has translated, or co-translated, Norwegian novels by Lars Saabye Christensen, Ingvar Ambjornsen, Kjell Ola Dahl, Gunnar Staalesen, Pernille Rygg, and Jo Nesbo.
Author: Dorthe Nors (Denmark); Translators: Misha Hoekstra (US); Book: Mirror, Shoulder, Signal (Pushkin Press)
Dorthe Nors is a Danish author and writer. She is also the first Danish author to be published in the American magazine The New Yorker. Her book Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is about Sonja, an intelligent single woman in her 40s whose life lacks focus. Sonja is also struggling with an acute case of vertigo, a sister who won’t talk to her, and a masseuse who is determined to solve her spiritual problems.
Nors worked as a translator of Swedish crime novels before becoming a writer with her book Soul in 2002. In 2015 her short story collection Karate Chop was published in English alongside her novella Minna Needs Rehearsal Space.
Misha Hoekstra is an award-winning translator living in Aarhus, where he writes and performs songs under the name Minka Hoist. In an interview with Writers Without Borders, Misha talks about how he met the author. “I first met Dorthe Nors thanks to the American novelist Thomas E Kennedy, who introduced us back in 2009, over a pitcher of beer at Rosengårdens Bodega in Copenhagen. But I didn’t know any of her work until years later, when she asked me to translate Minna Mangler et Øvelokale (Minna Needs Rehearsal Space), a novella in lines. I fell in love immediately—with Minna, with the form she inhabits—an incantatory concatenation of simple declarative clauses inspired by Facebook updates—and with the way the voice jumps from high-flown lyricism in one line to pithy vernacular in the next.”
Author: Amos Oz (Israel); Translator: Nicholas de Lange (UK); Book: Judas (Chatto & Windus)
Amos Oz is the second Israel writer to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year. An Israeli writer, novelist, journalist and intellectual, he is also a professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba and is regarded as Israel’s most famous living author.
His book Judas is set in the still-divided Jerusalem of 1959-60. Described as a “tragi-comic coming-of-age tale and a radical rethinking of the concept of treason” the novel trails the life of Shmuel, a young, idealistic student, who is drawn to a strange house and its mysterious occupants within. The novel addresses Jewish-Arab conflict as well.
Translator Nicholas de Lange is a Nottingham-based professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the University of Cambridge. He has translated several works of fiction by Amos Oz, including A Tale of Love and Darkness for which he won the Risa Domb/Porjes Prize.
Author: Samanta Schweblin (Argentina); Translator: Megan McDowell (US); Book: Fever Dream (Oneworld)
Samanta Schweblin is a Buenos Aires-based writer who made her writing debut in 2002 with El núcleo del Disturbio. She won the Concurso Nacional Haroldo Conti. (National Contest Haroldo Conti) for that. Since then, some of her stories have been translated into English, French, Serbian, Swedish, Dutch, and Danish, and published in magazines. An English translation of her story Killing a Dog was published in the Summer 2009 issue of the London-based quarterly newspaper The Drawbridge. She lives in Berlin.
Fever Dream is her first novel and is about a young woman named Amanda and deals with obsession, identity and motherhood. LitHub wrote about the novel, calling it a “weird hallucination of a book where reading it feels like an experience.”
Translator Megan McDowell has translated books by many contemporary South American and Spanish authors, and her translations have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Words Without Borders, and Vice, among other publications. She lives in Chile.