International Booker Prize 2023

Six of the eventual International Booker long list were mentioned in my predictions, a reasonable hit rate given that of two of the books I failed to feature (Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv and While We Were Dreaming) have yet to be published. The former, by Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov, could perhaps have been predicted, especially with a translator from Ukrainian on the judging panel (although Kurkov writes his fiction in Russian).  The latter is also far from a surprise as Clemens Meyer’s previous novel, Bricks and Mortar, was long-listed in 2017. (I say previous, but While We Were Dreaming is his debut, only now translated).

Meyer’s novel is one of three published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in what is another fantastic year for them. This achievement should not be under-estimated – such consistency is remarkable given that the judging panel changes entirely each time. Still Born is one of two novels on the list I have read, and I was very keen to see it there. The Birthday Party, I said, “sounds the most fun” and now we shall find out. The other book I have read is Is Mother Dead, which I can also full-heartedly endorse – I’ve loved each one of Hjorth’s novels. Time Shelter was also one of my favourites, a position enhanced by actually owning a copy. And, finally, Whale and Ninth Building, representing Korea and China respectively, also made it into my suggestions.

Other novels were omitted largely by my ignorance – Boulder unforgivably so as I very much enjoyed Permafrost. Maryse Conde becomes the oldest author to be included – so old, in fact, that the only previous novel I have read, Segou, is a Penguin Classic. Pyre is the first novel translated from Tamil to be recognised. And the remaining two novels originate in France (Standing Heavy) and Sweden (A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding).

In fact, after a measly four selections in 2022, which hinted at a more global outlook for the prize, Europe is back in force with eight out of the thirteen books originating in that continent. Of the remaining books, three are from Asia and one each from Africa and South America. And it is Latin America which feels like this year’s loser. Both Mariana Enriquez and Nona Fernandez were tipped by many as potential inclusions, and Charco Press miss out after being short-listed in two of the last three years. I feel partly responsible for the absence of Our Share of Night as, having generally failed to read the entire long list due to the longer books, I foolishly read this in advance. Nothing quite meets this level of challenge, or last year’s 900 page The Books of Jacob, but the judges have included three over 500 (and another over 400). Oh well. Time to start reading.

Boulder by Eva Baltasar, translated by Julia Sanches

Whale by Cheon Myeong-kwan, translated by Chi-Young Kim

The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox

Standing Heavy by GauZ’, translated by Frank Wynne

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel

Is Mother Dead by Vigdis Hjorth, translated by Charlotte Barslund

Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv by Andrey Kurkov, translated by Reuben Woolley

The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier, translated by Daniel Levin Becker

While We Were Dreaming by Clemens Meyer, translated by Katy Derbyshire

Pyre by Perumal Murugan, translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan 

Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by Rosalind Harvey

A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding by Amanda Svensson, translated by Nichola Smalley

Ninth Building by Zou Jingzhi, translated by Jeremy Tiang



10 Responses to “International Booker Prize 2023”

  1. lauratfrey Says:

    After last year I was happy to see the longest book was under 600 pages 🙂 And I am so out of the loop, the only one of these I’d heard of was Still Born. But I’m also excited for Birthday Party, and a few others, a really great list, I think!

    • 1streading Says:

      I have only read two, though I have heard of most of the others. Also glad to see some shorter books, though still a few over 500! I’m looking forward to The Birthday Party too, it sounds like a great read.

  2. bookbii Says:

    It’s an interesting list. I have read none of them but Whale is on my future buy list thanks to reading an excellent review.
    Do you have a view on a winner? Given your hit rate here it might be worth a little bet 😁

    • 1streading Says:

      It would be a bit unfair to predict a winner having only read two. It’s also not easily predictable as the favourite quite often doesn’t win! I’m also looking forward to reading Whale.

  3. Claire 'Word by Word' Says:

    I haven’t read any of these, I was sad not to see a Charco novel on there, I really enjoyed their first two of 2023, Two Sherpas and You Shall Leave Your Land.

    An impressive result for Fitzcarraldo, the only author I’m really familiar with and have read many of her books is Maryse Condé, having discovered her in 2015 when she was longlisted for the International Booker, when it was for a body of work.

    I look forward to reading your reviews and discovering what my appeal to me from the list.

  4. JacquiWine Says:

    As you say, an amazing achievement for Fitzcarraldo. Someone there has a very sharp eye for quality as their track record of successes clearly demonstrates. I’m intrigued by Time Shelter, so very much looking forward to hearing your thought on it (along with the others, so course)!

    Like you, I loved Space Invaders by Nona Fernandez, but I’m not sure of its eligibility for the prize. The novella was translated by Natasha Wimmer a few years ago (2019, I think) for a Graywolf Press edition in the UU…so I guess that would rule it out of this year’s prize?

    • 1streading Says:

      As I understand the rules, the US publication of Space Invaders shouldn’t have ruled it our, although there was also Twilight Zone which is more recent. I’m currently reading Time Shelter and, so far, it is living up to the hype.

  5. Tony Says:

    You were a lot more successful than me – from eighteen guesses (thirteen read, five unread), I got a grand total of two (‘Whale’ and ‘Still Born’) right 😉

    • 1streading Says:

      I’m always more interested in what I’ve read than in what I’ve predicted – sadly only two this year. Still, looking forward to making a start on the rest.

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