The £50,000 International Booker Prize’s 2023 Longlist

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Announcing its 2023 longlist of novels written in 11 languages, the International Booker Prize shares its sales impact on last year’s winner.

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

Rocco: ‘Ideas and Emotion in Fiction’
This morning in London, the Booker Prize Foundation has released its longlist for the 2023 edition of the International Booker Prize.

As most Publishing Perspectives readers know, the International Booker Prize, of course, is not to be confused with the Booker Prize for Fiction.

The focus of this Booker is translation, and its £50,000 prize (US$60,734) is to be split into £25,000 (US$30,367) for the author and £25,000 for the translator—or divided equally between multiple translators. There also is a purse of £5,000 (US$6,072) for each of the shortlisted titles: £2,500 (US$3,036) for the author and £2,500 for the translator or, again, divided equally between multiple translators.

Since its first recipient was named in 2005—and until 2015 the honor was conferred only every other year—the International Booker Prize has become the world’s leading recognition of its kind, a pace-setting award known for its equal acknowledgment of authors and translators. This prize is also the inspiration for other similar awards, including the United States’ National Book Awards’ Translated Literature category, announced in January 2018 by chair David Steinberger and then-director Lisa Lucas in New York.

What Is a Booker Win Worth? From 473 UK Copies to 30,000

As if being the leader in this widening trend toward translation and translator recognition weren’t enough, the Booker Prize Foundation has further distinguished itself as the only major prize organization based in the English language that regularly reports indications of its impact.

While the rest of the myriad award programs that swarm the international publishing industry remain mum on whether their honors have actually moved the needle in book sales, here is what the Booker reports today (March 14) about the effects of the 2022 International Booker Prize win:

Booker Prize Sales Impact

Last year’s winner, Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree and translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, saw its UK edition initially sell “473 copies in the first six months after publication, which increased to more than 5,000 copies between the longlist announcement in February and the end of May 2022.

“In the nine months since its win on May 26, Tomb of Sand has sold a further 25,000 copies, making it the biggest seller of its publisher, Tilted Axis.

“Rights have been sold in a dozen languages and a United States edition was recently published by HarperVia.”

Many professionals in world publishing hope that other award programs will follow the Booker Foundation’s lead in announcing such details about market effects of their activities. The industry likes to assume that those shiny golden stickers in bookstores are shifting copies. In truth, precious little such follow-up data is made available to the news media.

That, of course, leaves room for the unfortunate impression that the many other prize programs jostling for your attention may not be contributing to sales and recognition as much as the book business surely must hope they are.

New This Year: Books from Bulgarian, Catalan, Tamil

Authors, among many, may be cheered to learn that the list this year includes the oldest writer to  have been longlisted for the prize. Maryse Condé, whose The Gospel According to the New World (World Editions) is translated by Richard Philcox, is 89. Philcox and Condé are married. Condé, who has a degenerative neurological disorder that makes vision difficult, according to the Booker Foundation, dictated her book to her husband, who then translated it. They are the program’s first husband-and-wife nominees for the award.

The youngest longlisted author is reported to be Amanda Svensson, longlisted at age 35 for A System So Magnificent It Its Blinding (Scribe UK), translated by Nichola Smalley. The foundation points out that there are 54 years between these two authors’ ages.

They and the 11 authors and their translators “in between” Condé and Svensson bring forward work from 12 countries and translated into English from 11 languages. The list includes first-time translations for this program from Bulgarian, Catalan, and Tamil.

International Booker Prize 2022 Longlist

The jury’s selection of these 13 works was made from 134 books published between May 1 of last year and April 30. Submissions are made by publishers.

Title Original Language Author Author Nationality Translator Translator Nationality UK Publisher/Imprint
Boulder Catalan Eva Baltasar Catalan Julia Sanches Brazilian And Other Stories
Whale Korean Cheon Myeong-Kwan Korean Chi-Young Kim Korean-American Europa Editions
The Gospel According to the New World French Maryse Condé French Richard Philcox British World Editions
Standing Heavy French GauZ’ Ivorian Frank Wynne Irish Hachette/MacLehose Press
Time Shelter Bulgarian Georgi Gospodinov Bulgarian Angela Rodel American Hachette/Weidenfeld & Nicholson
Is Mother Dead Norwegian Vigdis Hjorth Norwegian Charlotte Barslund British-Danish Verso Fiction
Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv Russian Andrey Kurkov Ukrainian Rueben Woolley British Hachette/MacLehose Press
The Birthday Party French Laurent Mauvignier French Daniel Levin Becker American Fitzcarraldo Editions
While We Were Dreaming German Clemens Mayer German Katy Derbyshire British-German Fitzcarraldo Editions
Pyre Tamil Perumal Murugan Indian Aniruddhan Vasudevan Indian Pushkin Press
Still Born Spanish Guadalupe Nettel Mexican Rosalind Harvey British Fitzcarraldo Editions
A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding Swedish Amanda Svensson Swedish Nichola Smalley British Scribe UK
Ninth Building Chinese Zou Jingzhi Chinese Jeremy Tiang Singaporean Honford Star
Slimani: ‘Literary Ambition, Panache, Originality’

The International Booker Prize 2023 jurors are, from left, Parul Sehgal; Frederick Studemann; Tan Twan Eng; Leila Slimani; and Uilleam Blacker. Image: International Booker Prize

As we reported in August, the jury for this year’s International Booker Prize comprises Leïla Slimani, chair; Uilleam Blacker; Tan Twan Eng; Parul Sehgal; and Frederick Studemann.

Leila Slimani

In a prepared statement, Slimani is quoted, saying, “Through literature we experience the fact that we are, at the end of the day, just human beings. We cry the same. We are moved by the same things. We are all afraid, we all fall in love, and we have the same emotions. And this is the point of translation, that all over the world we can understand an emotion.

“What was very rewarding about this experience was reading books from all over the world, with an extraordinary variety of form and content. Each of the judges had different tastes and that’s what we have tried to reflect in this list. It celebrates the variety and diversity of literary production today, the different ways in which the novel can be viewed. We wanted to give the reader the chance to discover this and to find something that will move or disturb them.

“The list is also a celebration of the power of language and of authors who wanted to push formal inquiry as far as possible. We wanted to celebrate literary ambition, panache, originality, and of course, through this, the talent of translators who have been able to convey all of this with great skill.”

Fiammetta Rocco

The prize administrator, Fiammetta Rocco, also is quoted, saying, “To read a book translated from another language is to embark on a global adventure.

“The judges looked closely not just at what the writers and their translators were telling us about the world we live in, but also at how they told us. The panel talked about ideas and emotion in fiction, about form, structure, originality, poetry, ethics, character, and the importance of humor.

“The longlist for the International Booker Prize 2023 leaps from Mexico to Sweden, from Norway to South Korea, from China to Guadeloupe, from Côte d’Ivoire to Ukraine. Through fable and myth, stories and sagas, it proves that reading has no borders.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on both Booker Prize programs is here. More on the International Booker Prize is here, more on translation 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 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 was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.