The UK’s International Booker Prize Shortlist: Digitally Announced

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The original languages of the novels shortlisted for the International Booker Prize are Spanish, German, Dutch, Farsi, and Japanese.

Image: Booker Foundation

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

‘Tremendous Feats of Translation’
Announced digitally today (April 2) at 12:30 BST in London, the International Booker Prize shortlist has been made available to the media and on the foundation’s  TwitterInstagramFacebook, and YouTube accounts, as well as on the Booker Prizes’ site.

The safety of online communications is quickly becoming the preferred approach for world publishing’s many awards programs, of course, and rightly so. At this writing, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows the UK to have 29,865 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 2,357 deaths.

The six titles on the 2020 shortlist are translated into English from five languages, and these are writings that come from the Americas, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Europe. Sophie Hughes, a previously shortlisted translator (for her translation of Alia Trabucco Zerán’s The Remainder).

The selections this year are said in media messaging from the Booker Foundation to focus on people’s “need to understand the world through narrative, either through sharing our own stories, through understanding our histories and origins, or through processing trauma and grief.”

Our usual note: 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$62,284) split between them. Each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000 (US$1,245), bringing the total value of the prize to £62,000 (US$77,232).

The winner is to be announced on May 19.

2020 International Booker Prize Shortlist
Author
(Original Language – Country/territory)
Translator Title Publisher, Imprint
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
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
Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
(Dutch – Netherlands)
Michele Hutchison The Discomfort of Evening Faber & Faber

Southbank Centre’s Ted Hodgkinson heads the jury this year, and the panel includes 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 jury comment about the shortlist, Hodgkinson is quoted, saying, “Each of our shortlisted books restlessly reinvents received narratives, from foundational myths to family folklore, plunging us into discomforting and elating encounters with selves in a state of transition.

“Whether capturing a deftly imagined dystopia or incandescent flows of language, these are tremendous feats of translation, which in these isolating times, represent the pinnacle of an art form rooted in dialogue. Our shortlist transcends this unprecedented moment, immersing us in expansively imagined lives that hold enduring fascination.”

The jury began with 124 books this year, and you’ll find more about the longlist in our coverage here

Books under consideration for the 2002 honor must have been published in English in translation by UK publishers between May 1 last year and the 30th of this month. There’s 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.

Booker is the UK’s leading food wholesaler with 198 business centers and a national delivery network. It serves more than 441,000 catering customers, 94,000 independent retailers, and 641,000 small businesses.


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. More from Publishing Perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic is here.

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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.

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