2016 Man Booker International Prize Shortlist celebrates global literature and translation

April 21, 2016
2016 Man Booker International Prize Shortlist celebrates global literature and translation

The 2016 Man Booker International Prize Shortlist has been announced. The prize celebrates the best contemporary works of global fiction, with language and geography irrelevant when it comes to the quality of the submissions. 

The Man Booker International Prize is one of literature’s most sought-after awards. It is not just the prestige of winning, but the significant prize fund: £50,000 is divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning entry. Even getting onto the shortlist is a huge achievement, and one that sees both the author and the translator receive £1,000. 

The 2016 Man Booker International Prize shortlist

The international novels shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, whittled down from the 155 contenders, are:

•    A General Theory of Oblivion (Harvill Secker), written by José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola) and translated by Daniel Hahn (UK)
•    The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions), written by Elena Ferrante (Italy) and translated by Ann Goldstein (USA)
•    The Vegetarian (Portobello Books), written by Han Kang (South Korea) and translated by Deborah Smith (UK)
•    A Strangeness in My Mind (Faber & Faber), written by Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) and translated by Ekin Oklap (Turkey)
•    A Whole Life (Picador), written by Robert Seethaler (Austria) and translated by Charlotte Collins (UK)
•    The Four Books (Chatto & Windus), written by Yan Lianke (China) and translated by Carlos Rojas (USA)

Speaking of the variety of the 2016 shortlist, chair of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize judging panel, Boyd Tonkin, comments: 

“This exhilarating shortlist will take readers both around the globe and to every frontier of fiction. In first-class translations that showcase that unique and precious art, these six books tell unforgettable stories from China and Angola, Austria and Turkey, Italy and South Korea. In setting, they range from a Mao-era re-education camp and a remote Alpine valley to the modern tumult and transformation of cities such as Naples and Istanbul. In form, the titles stretch from a delicate mosaic of linked lives in post-colonial Africa to a mesmerising fable of domestic abuse and revolt in booming east Asia. Our selection shows that the finest books in translation extend the boundaries not just of our world - but of the art of fiction itself. We hope that readers everywhere will share our pleasure and excitement in this shortlist.”

New entrants

Five of the authors who have made the shortlist have done so for the first time. China’s Yan Lianke is the only one to have been nominated before, back in 2013. 

It is also the first time that writers from Angola, Austria, South Korea and Turkey have made the shortlist. 

When it comes to the translators, they are predominantly of UK or US descent and female. Turkish-born Londoner Ekin Oklap is the youngest, at 27, closely followed by Deborah Smith, who is 28. Interestingly, Smith only began learning Korean at the age of 21, showing that you are never to old to develop a glittering career in the translation industry if you have the right aptitude for languages and the determination to use your abilities. 

And the 2016 Man Booker International Prize winner is…

The 2016 Man Booker Prize winner will be announced at a formal dinner at London’s V&A on 16 May 2016, officially recognising the very best in global contemporary literature. 

Final thoughts

Have you ever translated an entire novel? What particular skills does it require, compared with translating shorter documents? Share your thoughts via the comments. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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