International Booker and Edinburgh Book Festival Announce RSC Program

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Following readings and conversation for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Royal Shakespeare Company actors will be seen in the International Booker awards show.

Scottish police officers patrol the Meadows park in Edinburgh on April 11, enforcing coronavirus restrictions limiting crowd size. Image – iStockphoto: Stephen Bridger

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

Actors Nwosu, Phelps, and Shaw Participating
Starting Thursday (April 29), the Edinburgh International Book Festival will host a series of readings from the 2021 International Booker Prize shortlist, featuring actors “with close associations to” the Royal Shakespeare Company.

That shortlist, as Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, was announced from London on April 22.

The Edinburgh program is described by the festival’s organizers as “a weekly series of conversations with the shortlisted authors and translators.”

A second round of readings is being announced for the June 2 Booker International Prize presentation, which will emanate from Coventry, the United Kingdom’s 2021 City of Culture.

Nwosu, Phelps, Shaw

From left: Ken Nwosu, Lucy Phelps, Fiona Shaw

The three actors, invited by RSC artistic director Gregory Doran for the events are:

  • Ken Nwosu, remembered for the RSC’s 2015 staging of The Merchant of Venice and The Alchemist, and film and television work, including Sticks and Stones and Killing Eve
  • Lucy Phelps, who was in As You Like It  (Rosalind) and Measure for Measure (Isabella) for the RSC when theaters were closed in March 2020 as part of the UK’s COVID-19 spread-mitigation efforts
  • Fiona Shaw, widely known for her RSC appearances as Portia, Beatrice, and Katerina, as well as her work with director Deborah Warner in ElectraRichard II, and Medea

The actors have been directed by Blanche McIntyre whose RSC directing credits include The Two Noble Kinsmen and Titus Andronicus.

In a prepared statement, Gaby Wood, director of the Booker Prize Foundation, is quoted, saying, “Both world-renowned and close by, the RSC has generously worked with us to bring to life passages written by the six extraordinary shortlisted writers, most of them new to the British reading public.”

And for the RSC, Doran says, “It’s a brilliant shortlist and a real pleasure to invite three exceptional actors to sound those words for the first time.”

The list of events for Edinburgh are:

  • April 29The Employees, reading by Lucy Phelps, and Heather Parry is to interview Olga Ravn and translator Martin Aitken
  • May 6The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, reading by Lucy Phelps, and translator Daniel Hahn is to interview Mariana Enríquez and translator Megan McDowell
  • May 13At Night All Blood is Black, reading by Ken Nwosu, and Philippe Sands is to interview David Diop and translator Anna Moschovakis
  • May 20When We Cease to Exist, reading by Fiona Shaw, and Jay G Ying is to interview Benjamín Labatut and translator Adrian Nathan West
  • May 25In Memory of Memory, reading by Fiona Shaw, and Allan Little is to interview Maria Stepanova and translator Sasha Dugdale
  • May 27: The War of the Poor, reading by Ken Nwosu, and Amelia Gentleman is to interview Éric Vuillard and translator Mark Polizzotti

The 2021 International Booker will again provide a purse of £50,000 (US$68,774) to be split between the winning author and translator. Each shortlisted author and translator will also receive £1,000 (US$1,375), meaning that the total payout of the program this year is expected to be £62,000 (US$85,298).

2021 International Booker Prize Shortlist
Title Author Translator Original Language Publisher or Imprint
All Night All Blood Is Black David Diop Anna Mocschovakis French Pushkin Press
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed Mariana Enríquez Megan McDowell Spanish Granta Books
When We Cease to Understand the World Benjamin Labatut Adrian Nathan West Spanish Pushkin Press
The Employees  Olga Ravn Martin Aitken Danish Lolli Editions
In Memory of Memory Maria Stepanova Sasha Dugdale Russian Fitzcarraldo Editions
The War of the Poor Éric Vuillard Mark Polizzotti French Pan Macmillan, Picador

The International Booker Prize is working with community operators in Coventry to set up a “Big Coventry Booker Read” event, a digital book group with residents reading and discussing the winner of the 2021 International Prize. One-thousand copies of the book will be distributed in late June using library networks in Coventry. The program will run through the summer, culminating in a Zoom event with the 2021 winner and translator, at the end of August.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett chairs this year’s jury and is joined by:

  • Journalist and writer, Aida Edemariam
  • (Man) Booker shortlisted novelist Neel Mukherjee
  • History of slavery professor Olivette Otele
  • Poet, translator, and biographer George Szirtes

The US-based Crankstart, a charitable foundation, is the exclusive funder of the Booker Prize and the International Booker Prize.


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 us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing 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 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. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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