The International Booker Prize is an annual award given to the best work of fiction translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland within the last year. The longlist for the International Booker Prize 2023 has been released, featuring 13 books translated from 11 different languages from 12 countries across the globe. One of the standout books on the list is ‘Pyre’ by Perumal Murugan, a devastating tale of inter-caste love in rural Tamil Nadu during the 1980s.
The villagers suspect that the marriage of the two young protagonists is an inter-caste one and set about exacting their revenge. The longlist includes ‘A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding’ by Amanda Svensson, ‘Still Born’ by Guadalupe Nettel, ‘Ninth Building’ by Zou Jingzhi, ‘While We Were Dreaming’ by Clemens Meyer, ‘The Birthday Party’ by Laurent Mauvignier, ‘Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv’ by Andrey Kurkov, ‘Is Mother Dead’ by Vigdis Hjorth, ‘Standing Heavy’ by GauZ, ‘Time Shelter’ by Georgi Gospodinov, ‘The Gospel According to the New World’ by Maryse Condé, and ‘Whale’ by Cheon Myeong-kwan.
The International Booker Prize 2023 Longlist comprises 13 books translated from 11 languages, showcasing literature from 12 countries worldwide. Below is the full list of books on the Longlist:
1. ‘Pyre’ by Perumal Murugan, Translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan
Perumal Murugan’s ‘Pyre’, translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, tells the tragic story of Saroja and Kumaresan, two lovers from different castes. Kumaresan conceals Saroja’s true caste, but their community suspects her background, leading to a devastating outcome. This poignant tale paints a bleak picture of intolerance.
2. ‘A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding’ by Amanda Svensson, Translated by Nichola Smalley
In Amanda Svensson’s ‘A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding’, translated by Nichola Smalley, a dysfunctional family is brought together when their father disappears. Despite exploring themes of depression and existential despair, the novel remains remarkably humorous, depicting the interconnectivity of our lives. The triplets at the heart of the story are separated, leading to an emotionally charged reunion.
3. ‘Still Born’ by Guadalupe Nettel, Translated by Rosalind Harvey
‘Still Born’, translated by Rosalind Harvey, follows two friends who make opposite choices in life: one chooses sterilization, while the other chooses motherhood. Guadalupe Nettel’s novel explores the complexities of women’s experiences, highlighting the contradictions and struggles that define their lives.
4. ‘Ninth Building’ by Zou Jingzhi, Translated by Jeremy Tiang
Zou Jingzhi’s first-hand experiences growing up during Mao’s Cultural Revolution are brought to life in this fascinating collection of vignettes. From his childhood in Beijing to his teenage years in the countryside, ‘Ninth Building’ provides a glimpse into the author’s life during one of China’s most tumultuous periods.
5. ‘While We Were Dreaming’ by Clemens Meyer, Translated by Katy Derbyshire
Described as “startlingly raw and deeply moving,” this debut novel by one of Germany’s most ambitious writers is a powerful exploration of passion, hope, and despair. ‘While We Were Dreaming’ takes readers on a journey through the lives of its characters as they navigate the challenges of life in post-reunification East Germany.
6. ‘The Birthday Party’ by Laurent Mauvignier, Translated by Daniel Levin Becker
Through rhythmic and propulsive prose that seamlessly weaves from one consciousness to the next, ‘The Birthday Party’ tells the story of three women and the secrets they keep from others and themselves. Laurent Mauvignier’s novel is a gripping exploration of the human psyche and the complexities of relationships.
7. ‘Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv’ by Andrey Kurkov, Translated by Reuben Woolley
Andrey Kurkov’s unique brand of black humor and vodka-fueled magic realism is on full display in ‘Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv.’ This affectionate portrait of one of the world’s most intriguing cities is shot through with wit and insight, providing a fresh perspective on Lviv and its inhabitants.
8. ‘Is Mother Dead’ by Vigdis Hjorth, Translated by Charlotte Barslund
‘Is Mother Dead’ by Vigdis Hjorth, translated by Charlotte Barslund, tells the story of Johanna, a middle-aged artist, and her aging mother. This domestic thriller explores the lengths people will go to uncover buried truths.
9. ‘Standing Heavy’ by GauZ, Translated by Frank Wynne
‘Standing Heavy’ by GauZ, translated by Frank Wynne, is a sharply satirical and political novel that offers a poignant commentary on colonial legacies and capitalist consumption. The book takes readers on a memorable journey through everything that passes under a security guard’s gaze.
10. ‘Time Shelter’ by Georgi Gospodinov, Translated by Angela Rodel
‘Time Shelter’ by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel, is an international award-winning sensation with a dystopian twist in its second act. This tour de force is set in a world that is desperate to remember the past before it’s forgotten.
11. ‘The Gospel According to the New World’ by Maryse Condé, Translated by Richard Philcox
‘The Gospel According to the New World’ by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox, follows the journey of a rumored miracle baby believed to be the child of God. The award-winning Caribbean author takes readers on a spiritual adventure in search of the baby’s origins and mission.
12. ‘Whale’ by Cheon Myeong-kwan, Translated by Chi-Young Kim
‘Whale’ by Cheon Myeong-kwan, translated by Chi-Young Kim, explores the interlinked lives of three characters in a remote village in South Korea. The novel also delves into the rapid transition from pre-modern to post-modern society in Korea.
13. ‘Boulder’ by Eva Baltasar, Translated by Julia Sanches
In ‘Boulder’, Eva Baltasar tells the story of a woman who falls in love with a man on a merchant ship and is given the nickname “Boulder”. When one of them desires a child while the other does not, Boulder must choose between love and freedom, leaving her to prioritize her desires.
The panel of judges, including novelist Leïla Slimani (Chair), literary translator Uilleam Black, Booker-shortlisted writer Tan Twan Eng, writer Parul Sehgal, and literary editor Frederick Studemann, selected the longlist. The shortlist of six books will be revealed on April 18, 2023, and the winner will be announced at a gala ceremony in London on May 23, 2023.
With 11 novels, five short story and poetry collections, and a background working in rural Tamil Nadu, Murugan has been longlisted twice for the National Book Award for Translated Literature with his novels ‘One Part Woman’ and ‘The Story of a Goat’.
Last year, Geetanjali Shree, a Hindi author, won the International Booker Prize 2022 for her novel ‘Tomb of Sand’, translated by Daisy Rockwell, making her the first-ever Indian author to win the award and create history.
If Murugan wins the International Booker Prize 2023, he will be the second Indian author to do so, marking two consecutive years for an Indian author to win the prestigious prize.