Man Booker International Prize Shortlist

Today the Man Booker International Prize Shadow Jury announced their shortlist, two weeks after the official shortlist was announced (the delay was to allow us to read a rather lengthy long-list, a task I even now have not completed). The short list is as follows:

Mathias Enard (France), Charlotte Mandell (US), Compass (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Roy Jacobsen (Norway), Don Bartlett (UK), Don Shaw (UK), The Unseen (Maclehose)
Jon Kalman Stefansson (Iceland), Phil Roughton, Fish Have No Feet (Maclehose)
Clemens Meyer (Germany), Katy Derbyshire, Bricks and Mortar (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Amos Oz (Israel), Nicholas de Lange (UK), Judas (Chatto & Windus)
Samanta Schweblin (Argentina), Megan McDowell (US), Fever Dream (Oneworld)

Four of the books are in both shortlists (Compass, The Unseen, Judas and Fever Dream) with Fish Have No Feet and Bricks and Mortar replacing A Horse Walks into a Bar and Mirror Shoulder Signal: this suggests the winner is likely to come from those four.

All six finalists have champions within the Shadow Jury. Compass and Fever Dream entered the competition already garlanded in deserved praise and their place on both shortlists was to be expected. Samanta Schweblin’s novel so far outshone those of her female competitors it would have been astonishing if it had not appeared. (There are still some who feel the short-listing of Mirror Shoulder Signal is an attempt to ensure a more acceptable gender balance on the short-list, but that would not explain the long-list). The Unseen has rather appropriately crept up on us – I was not alone in my admiration for a novel I may never have read if I had not been shadowing the Prize. Judas, similarly, provided a depth of experience though of a more intellectual nature. Bricks and Mortar was admired for its ambition rather than loved, but is also a great achievement in translation and deserves its place for that reason alone.

Our final selection, Fish Have No Feet, is the only book I have not read. (A review of Judas is forthcoming – ironically, having reviewed eleven of the original thirteen, I find both of my omissions on our short-list!). Leaving Fish Have No Feet until last was no accident: I read The Sorrow Of Angels (Stefansson seems to have moved from pathos to bathos when choosing the cliché for his title) when it was long-listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2014 and was not impressed; those who’ve read Fish Have No Feet say it’s more of the same, but not as good. If I can get a library copy I will read it, but I’m loathe to spend money on something I’m unlikely to enjoy.

This has been the most challenging Shadow Jury yet in terms of the length of the books but I also think it has been the highest in quality. Usually there is a stand-out winner for me, but this year that is certainly not the case. Elsewhere I have characterised the competition between Compass and Fever Dream as being between the power of the intellect and the power of the imagination; a contest that creates the potential for a compromise candidate which has claims to both.


2 Responses to “Man Booker International Prize Shortlist”

  1. JacquiWine Says:

    You know it’s funny. I really liked The Sorrow of Angels when I read it a few years ago, but I never went on to pick up the final book in the trilogy – The Heart of Man. It’s difficult to say why, but maybe the writing was just too beautiful – too much of a good thing and all that!

    • 1streading Says:

      Too much of a good thing:”Stefansson may not have a hundred different words for snow but he has certainly used many thousands describing it.” That actually made me laugh – apparently my reviews used to be funny!
      Many seem to love his work – I’m just not one of them!

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