2020 International Booker Prize Shortlist Announced

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The judges of the 2020 International Booker Prize have revealed the six shortlisted books in contention for the prize, which celebrates the finest translated fiction from around the world. The shortlist was announced on The Booker Prizes social media and website.

The shortlist

This year’s shortlist features titles translated from five languages: Spanish, German, Dutch, Farsi and Japanese. The shortlisted authors hail from six countries and their books examine humanity’s need to understand the world through narrative, either through sharing our own stories, through understanding our histories and origins, or through processing trauma and grief.

Three of the novels, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara and Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann have been inspired by their nations’ histories – namely the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, gaucho culture in 1870s Argentina, and the Thirty Years’ War in Germany. Each of these books borrows existing myths, legends and origin stories but reinterprets these tales with modern sensibilities, celebrating the pursuit of intellectual freedom, the exploration of sexual identity, and survival in the face of political unrest and sweeping illness.

The other three shortlisted titles, Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa and The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld all touch on how trauma, whether through violent acts or emotional loss, shape our experiences and approach to the world. Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season opens with the gruesome discovery of a murder victim, but the novel’s narrative drive quickly shifts to asking, ‘Why?’ rather than ‘Who?’ and through the characters’ stories we are introduced to a world governed by poverty and violence, misogyny, and prejudice. In The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa explores the power of memory, and how much our memories define us, and the trauma of loss. Loss is also a central theme of Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s The Discomfort of Evening, a story that recounts the breakdown of a devout family after the untimely death of one of their children.

What the judges said

Chair of the judging panel, Ted Hodgkinson says:

“Each of our shortlisted books restlessly reinvents received narratives, from foundational myths to family folklore, plunging us into discomforting and elating encounters with selves in a state of transition. Whether capturing a deftly imagined dystopia or incandescent flows of language, these are tremendous feats of translation, which in these isolating times, represent the pinnacle of an art-form rooted in dialogue. Our shortlist transcends this unprecedented moment, immersing us in expansively imagined lives that hold enduring fascination.”

Get involved

What do you think of the 2020 shortlisted titles? Which have you read and what will be added to your TBR pile? Add your comments below, or click any title above to leave a review.

Join in with your reading group using the reading group guides for all the longlisted books.

Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #InternationalBooker2020. Keep up with all the latest news on the Booker Prizes website.

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I had already read all 13 of the longlist prior to the shortlist announcement.

I was delighted to see The Enlightenment of The Greengage Tree, Hurricane Season and The Discomfort of Evening on the shortlist - three powerful 5 star books, and all worthy winners.

Memory Police and the Adventures of China Iron (from one of my favourite publishers Charco Press) are also worthy of their place on the shortlist.

But the inclusion of Tyll was a disappointment - and the judges omitted perhaps the strongest of all the books on the longlist, Jon Fosse's The Other Name: Septology I – II with his distinctive 'slow prose', and perhaps my favourite of all the books.

However, still a very strong list and congratulations to the judges - and there is a 5/6 chance of me being pleased with the winner.


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