International Booker Prize Predictions 2022

With the announcement of the International Booker Prize long list of 2022 only days away it is traditionally time for me to fail to predict what might be on it. The favourite, of course, is Nobel Prize winner Olga Tocarczuk’s The Books of Jacob (translated by Jennifer Croft), running to as many pages as most of the other contenders put together. The prize – both as the International Booker and in its previous guise as the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize – has never been particularly kind to Nobel Prize winners: Orhan Pamuk and Jose Saramago’s wins both predate their Nobel anointing, and Mario Vargas Llosa has only once made it onto a short list. The Books of Jacob may not be as certain to win, or even to be included, as we might think.

Other major European contenders, however, are in short supply. The French writer Maylis de Kerangal, with Painting Time (translated by Jessica Moore) is one possibility having been previously long-listed in 2016 for Mend the Living. Also Portuguese author Dulce Maria Cardoso, who narrowly missed out in 2017 according to the chair of the judges Nick Barley, may find herself included with Violeta Among the Stars (translated by Angel Guirra-Quintana). Then there is the yet to be published Portrait of an Unknown Lady by Maria Gainza (translated by Thomas Bunstead) or Trust by Domenico Starnone (translated Jhumpa Lahiri, whose own Whereabouts is also eligible having been originally written in Italian) – unfortunately, Elena Ferrante has never won, preventing Starnone from doing a Romain Gary. Hopefully at least one of two strong contenders from Peirene Press will feature – Winter Flowers by Angelique Villaneuve (translated by Adriana Hunter) and Marzan, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp (translated by Jo Heinrich), both of which find hope in trying circumstances. If I could place one European writer on the long list myself, however, it would be Bel Olid for Wilder Winds (translated by Laura McGloughlin), a collection of short stories where quality far exceeds volume.

Last year was a disappointing year for Latin American writers, although both books which were long-listed made the short list. Charco Press have, as usual, numerous contenders. Tender by Ariana Harwicz (translated by Carolina Orloff and Annie McDermott) is one, but it is surely too off the wall even compared to the first two parts of her ‘involuntary’ trilogy. Both Brickmakers by Selva Almada (translated by Annie McDermott) and Elena Knows by Claudia Pineiro (translated by Frances Riddle) are very fine novels and at least one of them should be there. Phenotypes by Brazilian Paulo Scott (translated by Daniel Hahn) and Chilean Poet by Chilean Alejandro Zambra (translated by Megan McDowell and not yet published) are also strong possibilities. Evelio Rosero may reappear with Stranger to the Moon, thirteen years after winning with The Armies (both translated by Anne McLean).

Elsewhere, perennial judges’ favourite Yan Lianke has a new novel out – Hard Like Water (translated by Carlos Rojas) – and Mieko Kawakami – who missed out with Breast and Eggs – may have more luck with Heaven (which I preferred, translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd). The popular Cursed Bunny by Korean writer Bora Chung (translated by Anton Hur) would be a great addition for the name alone. Otherwise eligible titles outside European languages have rather passed me by in the last year so my main hope is that the judges, who include writers from Zimbabwe and Singapore, have unearthed some potential winners of their own. This year more than ever, it is in the hope of discovery, rather than the expectation of accurate prediction, that I approach the announcement!



9 Responses to “International Booker Prize Predictions 2022”

  1. Claire 'Word by Word' Says:

    Looking forward to seeing what will be on the list, The Books of Jacob will take some reading for everyone including the shadow judges if it is listed!

    • 1streading Says:

      Yes – I like to read the long list, but at least I have the option to opt out! (It’s not that I don’t want to read it but long books can be tough when you’re not on holiday).

  2. Cathy746books Says:

    My favourite longlist! I always discover some great books when this is announced

  3. Tony Says:

    About seven books here overlapping with my own ‘predictions’ – so we know seven books that won’t be making the longlist 😉

  4. JacquiWine Says:

    Great predictions, Grant, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see several of these on the longlist. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’d love to see Whereabouts in the official selection, and maybe Elena Knows, too – a friend gave me a copy for my birthday, so hopefully I’ll be reading it soon!

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