[The JRB Daily] ‘Celebrating the variety and diversity of literary production today’—2023 International Booker Prize longlist announced

The thirteen novels longlisted for the 2023 International Booker Prize have been revealed, including Guadeloupian author Maryse Condé, described by the judges as ‘the great voice of the Caribbean’.

The International Booker Prize aims to ‘encourage more publishing and reading of quality works of imagination from all over the world, and to give greater recognition to the role of translators’.

Condé, who has been nominated for The Gospel According to the New World, is the oldest person ever to make the International Booker Prize longlist, at the age of eighty-nine.

Condé dictated The Gospel According to the New World to Richard Philcox, her husband and translator, having lost her sight.

Also on the list is Ivorian author, editor and photographer GauZ’, who is nominated for Standing Heavy, his first work to appear in English. GauZ’ moved to Paris as an undocumented student, and worked as a security guard before returning to Côte d’Ivoire. His novels have won multiple awards, including Le Prix des libraires Gibert Joseph, Prix-Ivoire and Prix Éthiophile.

GauZ’ is not the only former security guard on the list: German author Clemens Meyer, nominated for While We Were Dreaming, started his working life as a builder, furniture removal man and security guard before turning to writing.

The International Booker Prize is awarded every year for a single book translated into English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. Both novels and short story collections are eligible. The contributions of both the author and translator are given equal recognition, with the two sharing the £50,000 (about R1 million) prize money. Each shortlisted author and translator will receive £2,500.

This year’s longlist features work from twelve countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, three writers who appear in English for the first time—GauZ’, Zou Jingzhi and Amanda Svensson—and books translated from eleven languages.

2023 International Booker Prize longlist

  • Boulder by Eva Baltasar, translated by Julia Sanches
  • Whale by Cheon Myeong-kwan, translated by Chi-Young Kim
  • The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox
  • Standing Heavy by GauZ’, translated by Frank Wynne
  • Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel
  • Is Mother Dead by Vigdis Hjorth, translated by Charlotte Barslund
  • Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv by Andrey Kurkov, translated by Rueben Woolley
  • The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier, translated by Daniel Levin Becker
  • While We Were Dreaming by Clemens Meyer, translated by Katy Derbyshire
  • Pyre by Perumal Murugan, translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan 
  • Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by Rosalind Harvey
  • A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding by Amanda Svensson, translated by Nichola Smalley
  • Ninth Building by Zou Jingzhi, translated by Jeremy Tiang

Prize-winning French–Moroccan novelist Leïla Slimani, chair of the International Booker Prize 2023 judges, says:

‘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 is 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 enquiry 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, administrator of the International Booker Prize, says:

‘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 humour.

‘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.’

Joining Slimani on the panel of judges are Uilleam Blacker, one of Britain’s leading literary translators from Ukrainian; Tan Twan Eng, the Booker-shortlisted Malaysian novelist; Parul Sehgal, staff writer and critic at the New Yorker; and Frederick Studemann, Literary Editor of the Financial Times.

The shortlist of six books will be announced on Tuesday 18 April. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in London on 23 May.

Last year’s winner was Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree and translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell.

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