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Six novels shortlisted for International Booker Prize


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Six novels, described as “implicitly optimistic” by the judging panel, have been shortlisted for the International Booker Prize. The selected titles delve into a range of themes, from disintegrating relationships to societal divisions, offering insights into the current realities of racism, oppression, global violence, and ecological disasters.

South Korean writer Hwang Sok
-yong (Photo credit: Getty Images)


Among the nominees is Korean writer Hwang Sok-yong, recognised for his ninth novel translated into English, Mater 2-10. This nearly 500-page epic traverses a century of Korean history through the lens of a family of rail workers and a laid-off factory worker. The narrative offers a poignant “worker’s-eye view” of Korea’s tumultuous 20th-century history, particularly its partition. Notably, this marks the third consecutive year a South Korean author has been shortlisted for the prize.



German author Jenny Erpenbeck also finds herself on the shortlist for her novel Kairos, translated by Michael Hofmann. Set against the backdrop of the collapse of the German Democratic Republic, the novel explores a relationship amidst political turmoil. Despite its bleak portrayal of love and politics, Erpenbeck’s meticulous storytelling captivates readers until the final page.

Itamar Vieira Junior, a Brazilian author, earns recognition for his debut novel Crooked Plow, translated by Johnny Lorenz. This poignant narrative delves into the lives of subsistence farmers in Brazil’s poorest region, revealing the intricacies of their existence three generations after the abolition of slavery. The novel offers a unique perspective on resistance and land rights, portraying the personal and collective struggles of its characters with intimacy and authenticity.

Selva Almada, the fourth Argentine author to be shortlisted since 2020, presents Not a River, translated by Annie McDermott. This seemingly simple tale of three men on a fishing trip gradually unveils layers of foreboding and trauma, captivating readers with its depth and complexity.

Swedish writer Ia Genberg’s The Details, translated by Kira Josefsson, explores a woman’s reflections on books and memories from her past while confined to her bed with a high fever. The nonlinear narrative adds depth to the protagonist’s character, offering a compelling meditation on transience.

Rounding off the shortlist is Dutch author Jente Posthuma’s What I’d Rather Not Think About, translated by Sarah Timmer Harvey. Narrated by a twin grappling with the suicide of their sibling, the novel offers a raw exploration of sibling relationships and the mourning process, blending insightfulness with tender humanity.

The judging panel, chaired by broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel, hailed the shortlisted novels for their engagement with pressing global issues while offering glimpses of hope and resilience. Each winner, both author and translator, will receive £25,000, with shortlisted nominees receiving £2,500 each.

The selection process was rigorous, with the panel choosing from a longlist of 13 titles, reflecting the richness and diversity of contemporary literature. Notable omissions from the shortlist include works such as A Dictator Calls by Ismail Kadare, The Silver Bone by Andrey Kurkov, and The House on Via Gemito by Domenico Starnone.

Previous winners of the International Booker Prize include acclaimed authors such as Han Kang, Olga Tokarczuk, and Lucas Rijneveld. Last year’s prize was awarded to Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov and translator Angela Rodel for Time Shelter.

The winner of the International Booker Prize 2024 will be announced at a ceremony in London on 21 May, adding another chapter to the rich tapestry of global literature.


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