International Booker Prize shortlist includes titles from 6 countries

OCTOBER 27, 2022

The International Booker Prize 2024 shortlist | Photo from The Booker Prizes website

A diverse exploration of social issues, this year’s International Booker Prize shortlist consists of six translated novels from six countries



Political issues that divide families and societies are the focal points of this year’s International Booker Prize shortlist, released on Apr. 9 through the British organization’s website and social media accounts. 

The annual award ceremony, which aims to recognize the work of authors and translators across the globe, featured six translated novels from six countries. 

“Our shortlist opens onto vast geographies of the mind, often showing lives lived against the backdrop of history,” Eleanor Wachtel, International Booker Prize 2024 chairperson, explained in a statement

“Or, more precisely, interweaving the intimate and political in radically original ways,” she continued. “While implicitly optimistic, [it] engages with current realities of racism and oppression, global violence and ecological disaster.” 

READ: 30 women artists, curators, designers, and art educators to watch out for in 2024

This year’s awardee will be announced through a ceremony on May 21 at the Tate Modern, London. 

The event, which will be hosted by literature-related content creator Jack Edwards, will also be live-streamed through the Booker Prizes official YouTube

Until then, here are the six novels included in this year’s shortlist: 

“Not a River” by Selva Almada, translated from Spanish by Annie McDermott

Photo from The Booker Prizes website

Described by this year’s Booker Prizes jury as “a deceptively simple novel,” Almada’s “Not a River” details the story of two men–Enero and El Negro–who take their deceased friend’s son on a fishing trip. 

Following a bout of frustration during the trip, one of the men shoots a stingray and hangs its corpse at their campsite to rot. This singular act propels a series of past events that explore themes of masculinity, death, guilt, and desire. 

“‘Not A River’ is inspired by the territory where I was born and raised,” said Almada in a statement. “By the people who inhabit that land and who, in many cases, were marginalized by neoliberal policies that condemn the majority to poverty and to an absence of minimum rights.” 

Almada is the fourth Argentinian author to be included in the shortlist since 2020, according to The Booker Prizes website.  

“Mater 2-10” by Hwang Sok-yong, translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae

white book
Photo from The Booker Prizes website

A Korean multi-generational story spanning the Japanese colonial era, Liberation, and the present, “Mater 2-10” follows a family of rail workers and a factory worker who has been laid off as they stage a “high-altitude sit-in.” 

Hwang cited his interaction with a former locomotive engineer during a visit to North Korea in 1989 as the inspiration for this novel, stating how he was “delighted to learn that [the engineer’s] family had lived in the rail workers’ housing very close to where I’d grown up.” 

Despite taking “copious notes at the time,” it would take Hwang over 30 years to complete the novel, which was described by the Booker jury as a “passionate novel of Korean resilience.” 

Hwang, at 81, is the oldest author on this year’s shortlist. He was also included in the 2019 longlist for his novel, “At Dusk.” 

“What I’d Rather Not Think About” by Jente Posthuma, translated from Dutch by Sarah Timmer Harvey

blue book
Photo from The Booker Prizes website

Narrated by a woman whose fraternal twin had recently taken his own life, “What I’d Rather Not Think About” is not only an exploration of grief but also a retrospective on the complex relationship between siblings. 

“For me, each book begins very personally, with something happening within myself,” Dutch author Posthuma explained. “For this book, it was the emotions I experienced when the one person I thought would always be there withdrew from my life.” 

Although she described her circumstances as “very different” from the novel’s protagonist, she emphasized how they shared a similar “grieving process.” 

“What I’d Rather Not Think About” is Posthuma’s first translated novel, it is also the first among her works to be shortlisted. 

“Crooked Plow” by Itamar Vieira Junior, translated from Portuguese by Johnny Lorenz

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Photo from The Booker Prizes website

Set in an underserved Brazilian backcountry, “Crooked Plow” fuses magical and social realism as it depicts the story of two sisters who become fascinated with a mystically powered knife beneath their grandmother’s bed. 

Vieira Junior explained that the novel aims to highlight “the love that Brazilian farmers feel for the land itself, for the earth of the Brazilian countryside;” a statement the Booker jury echoed as they described the novel to be “an evocative journey into the heart of rural Brazil.”

“[Crooked Plow] speaks to the importance of remembering our histories and protecting the land that sustains us,” the Booker jury said. 

The novel serves as Viera Junior’s authorial debut. He is also the youngest on the shortlist at 44. 

“Kairos” by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from German by Michael Hofmann

orange and white book
Photo from The Booker Prizes website

Set in Berlin, three years before the fall of the German Democratic Republic, “Kairos” explores a turbulent period in European history alongside a doomed relationship between a young student and a married man. 

“It’s a private story of a big love and its decay, but it’s also a story of the dissolution of a whole political system,” explained Erpenbeck. 

“How can something that seems right in the beginning, turn into something wrong? This transition interested me,” she elaborated. 

Erpenbeck is the first German author to be shortlisted since 2020. However, she did make it to the longlist in 2018 for her novel, “Go, Went, Gone.” 

“The Details” by la Genberg, translated from Swedish by Kira Josefsson

green book
Photo from The Booker Prizes website

Containing the stories of four interconnected characters, “The Details” is an exploration of friendship and loss, described by The Booker Prizes as “an intimate and powerful celebration of what it means to be human.” 

“Ia [Genberg] builds this novel with sentences that are long and meandering,” explained translator Josefsson. “A quality that’s integral to the exploration of memory and time’s passage that makes up the humming bassline of the book.” 

According to Genberg, she was inspired to write the novel while afflicted with COVID in April 2020.

Genberg is the first Swedish author to be included in the shortlist. 

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