Six books, set in locations including Istanbul and the Austrian Alps, during periods as mixed as the great famine in China and the Angolan civil war, telling stories of a female friendship in Camorra-controlled Naples and of a Korean wife’s transformative rebellion, have been announced as the finalists for the 2016 Man Booker International prize.
The Nobel prize-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, pseudonymous Italian author Elena Ferrante, Chinese dissident Yan Lianke, Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa, Austrian Robert Seethaler and South Korean Han Kang have all been shortlisted for the award, which celebrates the finest global fiction translated into English. The winner will receive £50,000, to be split evenly between author and translator.
The six-book selection was whittled from a longlist of 13, and an original pool of 155 entries. With six different languages represented, and four countries – Angola, Austria, South Korea and Turkey – appearing for the first time, judges praised the diversity of an “exhilarating” shortlist.
Agualusa and Pamuk have both previously won the Independent foreign fiction prize, which ran until 2015, when it merged with the Man Booker International prize. The merge came with a number of changes: the Man Booker International now runs as an annual award, and recognises a single book. Previously the prize was awarded every second year to an author for their entire body of work, a tradition that Jonathan Taylor, president of the Man Booker Foundation, said had caused it to lose momentum.
Agualusa is chosen for his novel A General Theory of Oblivion, the story of a woman who bricks herself inside her apartment on the eve of Angolan independence and spends the next 28 years living off vegetables and pigeons until a child outside begins interacting with her. The judges called Agualusa’s book “a unique portrait of a society in flux”.
The judges also named The Story of a Lost Child, the fourth and final novel in Elena Ferrante’s Naples-set series, calling it “a veritable feast”. Despite making international bestseller lists, Ferrante has never been identified in public; her English translator, New Yorker staffer Ann Goldstein, only interacts with Ferrante via emails through her publisher.