The Bookseller

Ferrante and Nobel Prize winners on Man Booker International longlist

by Katherine Cowdrey

The longlist for the Man Booker International Prize 2016 has been revealed, including two Nobel Prize winners, two previous finalists and two debut authors.

The Man Booker International ‘dozen’ of 13 candidates, longlisted for a work of literary fiction translated into English by UK publishers, was whittled down from 155 entries to comprise authors: José Eduardo Agualusa, Elena Ferrante, Han Kang, Maylis de Kerangal, Eka Kurniawan, Yan Lianke, Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Ruduan Nassar, Marie NDiaye, Kenzaburō Ōe, Aki Ollikainen, Orhan Pamuk and Robert Seethaler.

With the intention of “celebrating the finest in global fiction”, the authors longlisted span four continents and 12 countries, as well as nine languages, hailing from Angola, Italy, South Korea, France, Indonesia, China, Democratic Republic of Congo/ Austria, Brazil, France, Japan, Finland, Turkey and Austria respectively.

The infamously and resolutely private Naples-born Ferrante was longlisted for her fourth installment of the Neopolitan Novels series, The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions), translated by multi-award winner and editor at The New Yorker Ann Goldstein. Ferrante’s Neopolitan quartet, beginning with My Brilliant Friend and ending with The Story of the Lost Child, is due to be adapted into an eight-part Italian language TV series.

Kenzaburō Ōe, considered one of Japan’s leading post-war writers, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994. The author from Tokyo was longlisted for his novel Death by Water (Atlantic), translated by Deborah Boliner Boem, about a Nobel laureate suffering from writer’s block. The other longlisted Nobel prize winner is Orhan Pamuk, longlisted forA Strangeness in my Mind (Faber & Faber) that tells the story of a boza seller on the streets of Istanbul. It was translated by literary agent Ekin Oklap.

Previous longlisters include Yan Lianke, this time counted for The Four Books, translated by Carlos Rojas (Vintage, Chatto & Windus), about “one of China’s most controversial periods”, and Marie NDiaye from France, who is longlisted for Ladivine, translated by Jordan Stump (Maclehose Press), described as “a bewildering, beguiling story of secrets, lies, guilt and forgiveness by one of Europe’s most unique literary voices”.

The Vegetarian (Portobello Books), also longlisted, was also praised and recommended by the administrator for the Man Booker, Economist books editor Fiammetta Rocco, at an International Women’s Day panel event as an “underrated” book by a woman. She said: “I have just read a South Korean novel, I have never read a South Korean novel before, and it’s called The Vegetarian. It’s about a woman in Korea who becomes a vegetarian because she wants to become a tree. It is absolutely one of the most extraordinary books I’ve read for years. And I’ve done nothing but grab people at the elbow saying ‘gotta read this, gotta read this. The cover is horrible, but you’ve gotta read this’.” The book is authored by Han Kang from Gwangju in South Korea, and translated by Deborah Smith – who was monolingual until the age of 21 – and published by Portobello Books.

The five judges responsible for selecting the longlist, chaired by Boyd Tonkin, includes anthropologist and novelist Tahmima Anam; academic David Bellos, director of the program in translation and intercultural communication at Princeton University; editor and academic Daniel Medin, who holds a comparative literature professorship at the American University of Paris (AUP); and prize-winning British poet and author Ruth Padel.

A shortlist will be announced on 14th April, when each of the shortlisted authors and translators will receive £1,000. The £50,000 overall prize is due to be awarded at a dinner at the V&A in May 2016, when it will be divided 50/50 between the author of the winning book and its translator.

The acolade is now awarded for an individual title annually, as opposed to a body of work once every two years, to make it easier to understand, after merging with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP). The prize is sponsored by investment managers the Man Group, which also sponsors the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.


Boyd Tonkin, chair of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize judging panel, said: “For the first longlist in its new form, the Man Booker International Prize invites readers to share a thrilling journey of discovery across the finest fiction in translation. The 13 books that the judges have chosen not only feature superb writing from Brazil to Indonesia, from Finland to South Korea, from Angola to Italy. Our selection highlights the sheer diversity of great fiction today. From intense episodes of passion to miniature historical epics; from eerie fables of family strife to character-driven chronicles of urban life, this list showcases fiction that crosses every border. It also pays tribute to the skill and dedication of the first-rate translators who convey it to English-language readers. Please join us on this fantastic voyage.”

Last year’s winner of the IFFP, which ran from 1990 – 1995, was The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from German by Susan Bernofsy and published by Portobello Books. The Man Booker International Prize, which launched in 2005, last year saw the prize go to Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai. It has previously been awarded to Lydia Davis (2013), Philip Roth (2011), Alice Munro (2009), Chinua Achebe (2007) and Ismail Kadare (2005).