The UK’s International Booker Prize 2020: The Longlist Is Announced

In News by Porter Anderson

The newly named longlist of 13 titles for the International Booker Prize includes translations from Afrikaans, Farsi, Spanish, Norwegian, German, French, Japanese, and Dutch.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Transcending Moral Certainties’
A total 124 submissions went into consideration for this year’s International Booker Prize  award, and this morning (February 27), the Booker Foundation in London has released the 13-title longlist for 2020.

Sophie Hughes

Keep in mind that this is not the Booker Prize for Fiction. The Booker International Prize is a younger award established in 2005 to honor an author and translator equally for a work of fiction translated into English.

The prize is awarded annually for a single book translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible. The contribution of both author and translator is given equal recognition, with the £50,000 prize (US$64,348) split between them. Each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000 (US$1,287), bringing the total value of the prize to £62,000 (US$79,838).

Samanta Schweblin

  • This year’s longlisted works selected are translated from eight languages and originate in Europe, South America, Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia.
  • The original language most represented is Spanish, with four titles.
  • Translators are named along with the books’ authors in the cover art of just two of the 13 longlisted works. Some publishers typically say that this is because readers shy away from books they can readily identify as translations.

The shortlist of six books is to be named in April. The winner is scheduled to be announced in May.

Many congratulations will be offered to the previously shortlisted Sophie Hughes, who is twice longlisted this year—as the translator of Hurricane Season and the co-translator with Margaret Jull Costa of Mac and His Problems.

And those who follow this award will note that Samanta Schweblin, the author of Little Eyes, has in the past been longlisted for Mouthful of Birds and shortlisted for Fever Dream.

2020 International Booker Prize Longlist
Author (Original Language – Country/territory) Translator Title Publisher, Imprint
Willem Anker (Afrikaans – South Africa) Michiel Heyns Red Dog Pushkin Press
Shokoofeh Azar (Farsi – Iran) Anonymous The Enlightenment of The Greengage Tree Europa Editions
Gabriela Cabezón Cámara (Spanish – Argentina) Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh The Adventures of China Iron Charco Press
Jon Fosse (Norwegian – Norway) Damion Searls The Other Name: Septology I – II Fitzcarraldo Editions
Nino Haratischvili (German – Georgia) Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin The Eighth Life Scribe UK
Michel Houellebecq (French – France) Shaun Whiteside Serotonin William Heinemann
Daniel Kehlmann (German – Germany) Ross Benjamin Tyll Quercus
Fernanda Melchor (Spanish – Mexico) Sophie Hughes Hurricane Season Fitzcarraldo Editions
Yoko Ogawa (Japanese – Japan) Stephen Snyder The Memory Police Harvill Secker
Emmanuelle Pagano (French – France) Sophie Lewis and Jennifer Higgins Faces on the Tip of My Tongue Peirene Press
Samanta Schweblin (Spanish – Argentina) Megan McDowell Little Eyes Oneworld
Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Dutch – Netherlands) Michele Hutchison The Discomfort of Evening Faber & Faber
Enrique Vila-Matas (Spanish – Spain) Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes Mac and His Problem Harvill Secker

‘Dialogue Between Authors and Translators’

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the jury this year is chaired by Ted Hodgkinson, head of literature and spoken word at Southbank Centre.

Ted Hodgkinson

He’s joined by comparative literature and translation specialist Lucie Campos; Booker International-winning translator and writer Jennifer Croft; writer Valeria Luiselli; and Booker-shortlisted writer and musician Jeet Thayil.

In a prepared statement, Hodgkinson is quoted, saying, “What a thrill to share a longlist of such breadth and brilliance, reflecting a cumulative artistry rooted in dialogue between authors and translators, and possessing a power to enlarge the scope of lives encountered on the page, from the epic to the everyday.

“Whether reimagining foundational myths, envisioning dystopias of disquieting potency, or simply setting the world ablaze with the precision of their perceptions, these are books that left indelible impressions on us as judges. In times that increasingly ask us to take sides, these works of art transcend moral certainties and narrowing identities, restoring a sense of the wonderment at the expansive and ambiguous lot of humanity.”

As regular readers of Publishing Perspectives know, the 2019 prize was won by the Omani author Jokha Alharthi and her translator Marilyn Booth for Celestial Bodies, published by Sandstone Press. The £50,000 prize was split equally between author and translator.

Celestial Bodies showed a 30-fold increase in sales in the week following the announcement and went straight to number one in the Amazon contemporary fiction bestsellers.

There is no restriction on the number of submissions per publisher  again this year, but the foundation advises that this will be kept under review and may change in future years.

Crankstart, the US-based charitable foundation of Sir Michael Moritz KBE and his wife, Harriet Heyman, is the new supporter of The Booker Prize and The International Booker Prize, succeeding the 18-year sponsorship of the Man Group.

Crankstart has committed to an initial five-year exclusive funding term with an option to renew for a further five years.

The new arrangement began on June 1 and saw the original prize return to being known as the Booker Prize, while the prize for literature in translation has become the International Booker Prize.

In the International Booker video below, jury members discuss their selections for the longlist.


More from Publishing Perspectives on both Booker Prize programs is here. And more from us on international publishing and book awards programs in general is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.