Past Winners and Shortlist Rookies
Frank Wynne, the Sligo-born judging chairman for the 2022 International Booker Prize, who turns 60 today, said the six books on this year’s shortlist were the best gift he could have hoped for.
Translated from six different languages - Korean, Norwegian, Japanese, Spanish, Polish and, for the first time, Hindi – the shortlisted titles are written by authors who include both past winners, Olga Tokarczuk and her translator Jennifer Croft, and a writer, Geetanjali Shree, first translated into English, by Daisy Rockwell.
The £50,000 prize for the best fiction from around the world, translated into English, is divided equally between the author and the translator. While five of the original authors are women, the majority of translators are men. The shortlist is again dominated by independent publishers, with two new ones this year, Tilted Axis and Honford Star.
cursed rabbit by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur from Korean (Honford Star)
A new name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian (Fitzcarraldo editions)
Paradise by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd from Japanese (Picador)
Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish (Charco Press)
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell from Hindi (entitled Axis Press)
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft from Polish (Fitzcarraldo editions)
“Translation is an intimate and complex dance that crosses borders, cultures and languages,” Wynne said. “There is nothing to compare to the awe and excitement of discovering a perfect couple between writer and translator. As a jury, we have had the pleasure of reading many extraordinary books, and choosing a shortlist from them has been difficult and at times heartbreaking.
“These six titles in six languages explore the boundaries and frontiers of human experience, whether haunting and surreal, poignant and tender, or exuberant and whimsical. In their differences, they offer glimpses of literature from around the world, but they all share a fierce and breathtaking originality that speaks to the endless inventiveness of fiction.
Wynne, himself an award-winning translator, said he was delighted that the shortlist included six countries and six languages, but “it was not planned, you don’t wonder what a good shortlist would look like? These are just the six books we are most excited about.
His fellow judges are author and academic Merve Emre; writer and lawyer Petina Gappah; writer, comedian and presenter Viv Groskop; and translator and author Jeremy Tiang.
Praising the extraordinary inventiveness of the authors and the many ways they found to tell a story, Wynne pointed out that Cursed Bunny was a series of short stories or fables; how each section of A New Name was a single sentence; Elena Knows drew on the light and shadow of black; The Book of Jacob was vast and wide, “like the Bayeux Tapestry but a mile and a half longer”; and Heaven intense and claustrophobic;
While acknowledging a common thread of trauma and conflict in the works, he insisted, “There is great optimism, however, in the face of death or loss of faith. It’s not so much about trauma, but more about surviving trauma.
He cautioned that the works should be enjoyed as works of art, not as primers for the cultures from which they originated. “The purpose of literature is not some kind of nativity scene for culture, pretty snapshots to explain the world,” he said. “Not all Spanish novels deal with the civil war; not all Argentine novels deal with the dark decade. Jon Fosse writes about love, death, the desire to create – there are no fjords!
The winner of the 2022 International Booker Prize will be announced on May 26 at a ceremony in London. Last year’s winner was At Night All Blood Is Black, written by David Diop and translated by Anna Moschovakis.
List of 2022 International Booker Prize finalists
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur from Korean (Honford Star)
While Bora Chung’s Cursed Bunny stories blend elements of horror, fantasy and surrealism, each is viscerally rooted in the real fears and pressures of everyday life. Chung’s richly imaginative collection is translated with verve and evident taste by Anton Hur, which moves effortlessly from playful to heartbreaking.
Bora Chung was born in Seoul in 1976. She has written three novels and three collections of short stories. She holds a master’s degree in Russian and East European studies from Yale University and a doctorate in Slavic literature from Indiana University. She teaches Russian language and literature and science fiction studies at Yonsei University and translates modern literary works from Russian and Polish into Korean.
Anton Hur was born in Stockholm in 1981. His pseudonym is inspired by AS Byatt, whose novel Possession inspired him. He has translated The Court Dancer and Violets by Kyung-Sook Shin, winner of the Man Asia Literary Prize, The Prisoner by Hwang Sok-yong, winner of the International Booker Prize, and others. He lives in Seoul.
A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
A New Name, the final movement of Jon Fosse’s Monumental Septology, brings together art, death and the idea of God with a vast and gentle grace. Damion Searls’ translation unfolds Fosse’s slow phrase with immense precision and beauty.
Jon Fosse was born in 1959 on the west coast of Norway and has written over 30 books and 28 plays translated into over 40 languages. Her first novel, Red, Black, was published in 1983 and was followed by works such as Melancholia I & II, Aliss at the Fire and Morning and Evening. He is one of the most produced living playwrights in the world. The Other Name: Septology I-II has been shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2020. Fosse currently has homes in Bergen, Oslo, and Hainburg, Austria.
Damion Searls was born in New York in 1971 and lives in Minneapolis. He is a translator from German, French, Norwegian and Dutch, and a writer in English. He was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2020 with Jon Fosse, for The Other Name: Septology I-II.
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd from Japanese (Picador)
An intense and claustrophobic novel, Heaven uses its history of middle school bullying to enact Nietzsche’s critique of morality. The power of Sam Bett and David Boyd’s translation lies in its ability to communicate both the abstract and philosophical ideas of Mieko Kawakami and her heartbreaking human drama.
Mieko Kawakami was born in Osaka in 1976. She is the author of the internationally bestselling novel, Breasts and Eggs. She made her literary debut as a poet in 2006 and published her first short story, My Ego, My Teeth, and the World, in 2007. She lives in Tokyo.
Sam Bett is a Japanese writer and translator. He has translated novels by Yoko Ogawa, NISIOISIN and Keigo Higashino as well as essays by Banana Yoshimoto, Haruomi Hosono and Toshiyuki Horie. He lives in Portland, Maine.
David Boyd is Assistant Professor of Japanese at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has translated novels and stories by Hiroko Oyamada, Masatsugu Ono and Toh EnJoe, among others.
Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish (Charco Press)
Elena Knows, Claudia Piñeiro’s short and deeply felt novel, evokes the loneliness of aging and the uncertainty of memory. Frances Riddle’s stark yet sparing translation suggests the shadows and light of darkness without ever overshadowing the very human tragedy at the book’s heart.
Piñeiro, born in Argentina in 1960, is best known for her crime novels which are bestsellers in Latin America. “The Hitchcock of Rio de la Plata”, many of his novels have been adapted for the big screen. Piñeiro is the third most translated Argentine author, after Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar. More recently, Piñeiro has become a very active figure in the fight for the legalization of abortion in Argentina and for the legal recognition of writers as workers.
Frances Riddle was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and lives in Buenos Aires, where she works as a translator, writer and editor. This is her fourth title for Charco Press after Slum Virgin by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara (2017), The German Room by Carla Maliandi (2018) and Theater of War by Andrea Jeftanovic (2020).
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell from Hindi (Titled Axis Press)
The ever-changing perspectives and timelines of Geetanjali Shree’s inventive and energetic Tomb of Sand draw us into every corner of the life and surprising past of an 80-year-old woman. Daisy Rockwell’s fiery translation rises admirably to the complexity of the text, full of puns and verve. A strong and compelling novel.
Author of three novels and several collections of stories, Geetanjali Shree’s work has been translated into English, French, German, Serbian and Korean. She was born in Mainpuri, India in 1957. This is the first of her books to be published in the UK. She lives in New Delhi.
Daisy Rockwell is a painter, writer and translator living in Vermont, USA. She was born in 1969 in Massachusetts. She has translated a number of classic works of Hindi and Urdu literature, including Upendranath Ashk’s Falling Walls, Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas and Khadija Mastur’s The Women’s Courtyard.
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft from Polish (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob weaves an epic tapestry from the bizarre, mundane, and utterly unpredictable sweep of history as it is momentarily created, replete with a staggering cast of characters, places, and events. historical events. Jennifer Croft’s smooth and elegant translation skillfully conveys the novel’s delicate irony and ethereal beauty.
Olga Tokarczuk is the author of nine novels, three collections of short stories and has been translated into 30 languages. Her novel Flights won the 2018 International Booker Prize, translated by Jennifer Croft. In 2019, she received the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was born in Sulechow, Poland in 1962 and lives in Wroclaw.
Jennifer Croft is the recipient of Fulbright, PEN and National Endowment for the Arts grants, as well as the Michael Henry Heim Prize. She is the founding editor of The Buenos Aires Review. In 2018, she won the International Booker Prize for her translation of Flights by Olga Tokarczuk. She was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1981 and lives in Los Angeles.