[The JRB Daily] ‘These books are all bold, subversive, nicely perverse’—2023 International Booker Prize shortlist announced

The six novels shortlisted 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’.

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

Condé dictated the book to Richard Philcox, her husband and translator, having lost her sight. ‘Winning would be a way of celebrating my latest and final novel,’ Condé told the Booker Prizes website.

This year’s shortlist also includes two debuts: Whale by Cheon Myeong-kwan, translated by Chi-Young Kim, and Standing Heavy by GauZ’, translated by Frank Wynne.

Standing Heavy is the first work by GauZ’ to appear in English. The Ivorian author, editor and photographer 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.

Each of the six books on the shortlist originated in a different country: Bulgaria, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Mexico, South Korea and Spain; together they span four continents.

2023 International Booker Prize shortlist

  • 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
  • Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by Rosalind Harvey

The International Booker Prize celebrates ‘the finest translated fiction from around the world’. It 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 R950,000) prize money. Each shortlisted author and translator will receive £2,500.

Leïla Slimani, Chair of the International Booker Prize 2023 judges, said:

‘I think I speak for the whole jury, when I say that I am proud of this list. I think it’s a very cool, very sexy list. We wanted each book to feel like an astonishment and to stand on its own.  

‘These books are all bold, subversive, nicely perverse. There is something sneaky about a lot of them. I also feel that these are sensual books, where the question of the body is important. What is it like to have a body? How do you write about the experience of the body? These are not abstract or theoretical books, but on the contrary, very grounded books, about people, places, moments. All these authors also question the narrative and what it means to write a novel today. 

‘What is extraordinary about literature is that when a novel is successful, it works with anyone, anywhere. There’s something really magical about storytelling. And we have had the joy of experiencing this by reading the books on this list. We have been caught up in these stories, dazzled, fascinated and it is these emotions that we want to share. I’m very happy to offer this list to readers—a list of remarkable variety, where they will find poetry, fantasy, eroticism and metaphysics.’

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 winning book will be announced at a ceremony in London, United Kingdom, on Tuesday 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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