A Horse Walks Into a Bar - Man Booker International Prize winner 2017

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The Man Booker International Prize celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world. The prize is awarded every year for a single book, which is translated into English and published in the UK. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible, and the writer and translator are rewarded equally for their contribution.

A Horse Walks Into a Bar was named the winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

The full shortlist of six titles can be found here, but in this series of articles we will look at each title in detail.

A Horse Walks Into a Bar

The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling before their eyes as a matter of choice. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell.

Dovale Gee, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.

Get involved

Have you read A Horse Walks Into a Bar? Do you want to know what other readers thought? You can leave a review, read a review or add the book to your group’s reading list.

Want to know more? Download a Readers’ Guide for A Horse Walks Into a Bar, including information about the author and translator, as well as some discussion notes and themed reading.

Want ideas on what to read next? We’ve created a supporting booklist with suggestions of other books that you might like to try if you enjoyed A Horse Walks Into a Bar, including books with similar setting or themes.

A word from Much Ado About Books

Much Ado About Books are one of the brilliant reading groups shadowing the prize this year, and have been reading A Horse Walks Into a Bar.

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“Our book group are thrilled to have been selected to shadow this year’s Man Booker International Prize. We were allocated A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman, translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen.

The novel follows a performance by stand-up comedian Dovaleh G on his 57th birthday. Recently diagnosed with an illness which has made him aware of his own mortality, instead of delivering an evening of humour, he regales the audience with the story of his first death. Characters from his past are in the audience as we hear about his tragic childhood as well as descriptions of how the audience are reacting to this change in entertainment.

We were initially impressed with the quality of the translation; you would never think the text had originally been written in a different language. Apart from a few cultural references that went over our heads, the humour and story translated very well.

Although we have read a few translated books over the years as part of our book group, this novel was completely different to anything else we had read before. Although we wouldn’t say that really enjoyed reading it, we were full of praise that it achieved exactly what it set out to do and that is make the reader feel a part of the audience during an extremely uncomfortable and at times disturbing performance. It questioned us on how we would have reacted – would we have stayed to watch the duration out of interest, or would we have left having been offended or uncomfortable? (One of our members was a definite leaver, as she couldn’t even finish the book!).

Overall, A Horse Walks Into a Bar is a good discussion book and raises questions of what we expect as an audience and takes the reader out of their comfort zone. Thank you to The Reading Agency for giving us this opportunity – we have enjoyed sharing our views online and discussing with the other groups shadowing the prize."

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