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Thursday, 14 April 2016

Man Booker International Prize Official Shortlist 2016

Today, the “official” judges, as opposed to the “shadow” judges, announced the Shortlist for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. As previously advised here, the prize has merged with the, now defunct, Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, is now yearly, now presents an award for a single work (not a body of work) and pretty much follows the rules of the old IFFP (eg. Published in the UK, a living author etc.)

Whittling down a massive list of entries to a longlist of thirteen novels would be a monumental task, refining those thirteen to a shortlist of six would present challenges as well, even if those challenges are just healthy debate about the merits of certain works. So congratulations has to go out to Boyd Tonkin (Chair), Tahmima Anam, David Bellos, Daniel Medin and Ruth Padel for presenting six novels, in translation, to the wider reading public.

Here are the six shortlisted titles (again in alphabetical order by author surname):

Elena Ferrante (Italy) Ann Goldstein, The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions)
Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) Ekin Oklap, A Strangeness in My Mind (Faber & Faber)

A simple comparison to the Shadow Jury’s Shortlist (as revealed yesterday) shows only three common works; Elena Ferrante, Han Kang and Yan Lianke. As I mentioned yesterday I rated Robert Seethaler’s “A Whole Life” higher than my fellow Shadow Jury members, so that inclusion is not a surprise to me, however there are a couple of points I would like to make about their official listing;

Personally I found “A General Theory of Oblivion” to read like a film script (which it was originally intended to be), with multiple “bit” characters and way too may coincidental happenings for my liking. If the inclusion of a work from Africa was part of their intention personally “Tram 83” rates a lot higher on my scale.

Female representation, as we know women in translation are underrepresented, however to work to a “quota” of 33% (to reflect publishing rates) is surely something the official judges have not done!!! Or have they??? To have two books of the six by women writers smacks of tokenism, Marie NDiaye’s “Ladivine” is a wonderful work (I will review it soon trust me), and personally it rates much higher than a number of books that have made the shortlist.

Of course the Shadow Jury will speak, naming our “unofficial” winner just prior to the official winner on 16 May, simple maths says we’re only an 11% chance of agreeing (with 9 works on the combined lists there is a one in 9 chance of us being on the same page), unlike 2015 where we all had Jenny Erpenbeck’s “The End Of Days” (translated by Susan Bernofsky) as the winner I’m thinking it will be more like 2014 where the Shadow Jury had "The Sorrow of Angels" by Jón Kalman Stefánsson (translated by Philip Roughton, published by MacLehose Press)  as the winner and the Official Jury hadn’t even included it on their shortlist.

You’ll have to stay tuned to see what transpires!


Arirang said...

Hate to correct your maths but I’m a statistician by training not a literary type (as shown by the fact I only picked two of the real shortlist on my personal list), and odds are actually 1 in 12. There’s a 50% chance you pick one of the three books in common – and then a 1/6th chance the real jury pick the same book from their 6.

That of course assumes that the choice of books is random and your taste uncorrelated to the real Jury’s – but given the respective shortlists, that isn’t unreasonable.

Tony Messenger said...

Thanks for pointing out my incorrect calculation, I wasn't far off the mark, no excuses I should have dwelt on the problem a little longer than I actually did.

Arirang said...

Interesting point - well at least to my nerdy mind - is that the chance of you both choosing the same winner is hardly any higher (1/12 vs 1/13) than it was before you both shortlisted 6 books.