The Shadow Booker international shortlist

Our shadow jury of bloggers and reviewers of translated fiction has completed our reading of the International Booker 2020 longlist, and has chosen our own Shadow Shortlist.

In alphabetical order of the original author’s name our chosen six books are:

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar (Farsi – Iran), tr. Anonymous (Europa Editions)

The Other Name Septology I-II by Jon Fosse (Norwegian – Norway), tr. Damion Searls (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (Spanish – Mexico), tr. Sophie Hughes (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese – Japan), tr. Stephen Snyder (Harvill Secker)

Faces on the Tip of My Tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano (French – France), tr. Sophie Lewis & Jennifer Higgins (Peirene Press)

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Dutch – Netherlands), tr. Michele Hutchison (Faber & Faber)

Firstly, we would like to congratulate the judges on choosing a very strong longlist. There are some stunning books on the list, and almost all of them, including those that missed out on our shortlist, had their champions among us. The books didn’t always make for an easy read – some are quite graphic in their depiction of violence – but certainly a thought provoking one,

You will see that four of our choices overlap with those of the official jury.

The Adventures of China Iron impressed many of us, but couldn’t quite squeeze on to our list. Instead we chose the cleverly connected short stories from Faces on the Tip of My Tongue.

When we were predicting books on the longlist The Eighth Life was the novel we most expected to see given its undoubted popularity both in the Anglosphere but also internationally. And we had expected it to make both the official and our shadow shortlist. Somewhat to our surprise, it missed out on both – the magic of the hot chocolate clearly doesn’t work on everyone.

We were though more surprised, and disappointed, at the exclusion of The Other Name from the official list – Jon Fosse’s trademark slow prose is stunning, and it makes for a very different reading experience from the others on the list. It is a timeless novel, and we fear the jury’s not unreasonable focus on novels relevant for the Covid-19 era may have counted against it. But with the next volume due in the autumn perhaps Fosse will make next year’s shortlist and he’s also overdue the Nobel Prize.

At the other end of the spectrum, the officially shortlisted Tyll didn’t spark much enthusiasm in our panel. But the one provoking the strongest reactions was Serotonin: several of the books on our shortlist are brutal or visceral but parts of Houllebecq’s novel simply felt gratuitous. Only three of our judges finished reading it and none of those were terribly impressed by its inclusion on the longlist.

We’ll now embark on the period of further re-reading, reflection and discussion to choose our winner. We wonder if we and the official jury will see eye to eye as we did in 2018, or reach a different view as we did last year.

(Thanks to Paul Fulcher for writing such an eloquent, and perfectly summarized, post for our shortlist decision. You can find him on Twitter at @fulcherpaul and on Goodreads here.)

Winstonsdad  I am pleased with our shortlist I had just about bar a few hundred pages finished the longlist I am behind on review but have enjoyed this year list there have been some eye-opening and shocking titles that show the wider nature of literature in translation I will review the rest of the longlist before we announce our winner I am now aiming to get to the 1000 reviews in the next few weeks.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Apr 10, 2020 @ 11:39:24

    Delighted to see The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree has made it to the shortlist:)

    Reply

  2. Cathy746books
    Apr 10, 2020 @ 13:04:15

    I just finished Tyll and really loved it! The Memory Police is an astounding book too.

    Reply

  3. julikins
    Apr 11, 2020 @ 19:11:20

    Great summary – this is really helpful in terms of determining what to read from the list!

    Reply

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