The Sidney Morning Herald

Elena Ferrante lines up for the Man Booker International Prize

Elena Ferrante's novel, The Story of the Lost Child.

The underlying question about this year’s shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize is whether the real Elena Ferrante will stand up to receive the prize if The Story of the Lost Child, the final novel in her Neapolitan quartet, is named the winner of the £50,000 ($92,000) prize. Will she even attend the presentation?

Because Elena Ferrante, of course, is a pseudonym for the writer who has entranced millions of readers in her native Italy and around the world with her quartet about two female friends in Naples. And it is a pseudonym that has been protected rigorously by her Italian publishers, Edizioni E/O. In Australia her books are published by Text.

Whoever she is, Ferrante is on the shortlist along with Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, who is listed for A Strangeness in My Mind. The other four novelists up for the prize, which will be announced in London on May 16, are: Jose Eduardo Agualusa (A General Theory of Oblivion); Han Kang (The Vegetarian); Robert Seethaler (A Whole Life); and Yan Lianke (The Four Books). The latter is also published in Australia by Text.

Elena Ferrante's novel, The Story of the Lost Child.
Elena Ferrante’s novel, The Story of the Lost Child.Photo: Supplied

The author must share the prize with the translator of the winning novel. Interestingly, 28-year-old Deborah Smith, the translator of South Korean Han Kang’s novel, only started learning Korean when she was 21.

Boyd Tonkin, chair of the judges, said: “Our selection shows that the finest books in translation extend the boundaries not just of our world – but of the art of fiction itself.” More than 150 books were entered for the prize.

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