The Man Booker International Prize is one of the most well-known and well-funded awards available to the authors and translators of international fiction. The international prize has been awarded every other year since 2004. In 2016, the prize evolved into an annual award, with the prize pot of £50,000 split equally between the winning author and the translator of his/her novel.
The aim of the Man Booker International Prize is to encourage the proliferation of the translation of quality works of fiction. By splitting the prize fund equally, it highlights the value of professional translation in sharing literature across cultures.
The 2016 award was given to Han Kang for her haunting and challenging novel, The Vegetarian, and its 28-year-old translator, Deborah Smith.
The shortlisted works for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize were announced on 20 April. They include:
• Compass written by Mathias Enard (France) and translated by Charlotte Mandell (US)
• A Horse Walks Into a Bar written by David Grossman (Israel) and translated by Jessica Cohen (US)
• The Unseen written by Roy Jacobsen (Norway) and translated by Don Bartlett (UK) and Don Shaw (UK)
• Mirror, Shoulder, Signal written by Dorthe Nors (Denmark) and translated by Misha Hoekstra (US)
• Judas written by Amos Oz (Israel) and translated by Nicholas de Lange (UK)
• Fever Dream written by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina) and translated by Megan McDowell (US)
It is a fascinating list. Nick Barley, chair of the 2017 judging panel, commented:
“Our shortlist spans the epic and the everyday. From fevered dreams to sleepless nights, from remote islands to overwhelming cities, these wonderful novels shine a light on compelling individuals struggling to make sense of their place in a complex world.”
Unlike last year’s winning translator, Deborah Stone, who only began learning South Korean six years before receiving the award, 2017’s shortlisted translators are all well-established literary translators. Each has been awarded £1,000 for their place on the shortlist. Their work has helped to bridge international boundaries and bring some outstanding works of fiction to new audiences.
In a fast-paced world that sees more than its fair share of conflict, working to aid different countries and cultures’ understanding of each other is a task to be admired and encouraged. That is precisely what the refreshed Man Booker International Prize does, celebrating the value of literary translation in our modern world.
For those who love to read, the shortlist stage of the competition is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy six of the very best translated works of contemporary fiction from around the world. With authors from France, Israel (two), Norway, Denmark and Argentina, the 2017 shortlist presents some fascinating works authored by individuals with vastly different experiences, values and beliefs. It’s a veritable literary feast for those who enjoy fine fiction from around the glove.
The winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize will be announced on 14 June. The prize ceremony will take place as part of a formal dinner at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum – a suitably grand setting for such a weighty achievement.
With celebrity culture seeming to impact on many of society’s values (the celebration of youth and beauty over wisdom and intelligence being perhaps the most glaring example), it is reassuring to know that the Man Booker International Prize is working to redress that imbalance.
Which of the shortlisted books have you read and which do you think will win? Do prizes like this help to encourage more people to value the work of translation services? Share your thoughts via the comments.