The Discomfort of Evening wins the 2020 International Booker Prize

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The Discomfort of Evening, written by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and translated from Dutch by Michele Hutchison, has been announced as the winner of The 2020 International Booker Prize. The £50,000 prize will be split between Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and Michele Hutchison, giving both the author and translator equal recognition. The winner was announced by chair of the judges, Ted Hodgkinson, during a virtual celebration which was livestreamed across The Booker Prizes Facebook and YouTube pages. The Dutch edition was a bestseller in the Netherlands, where it won the prestigious ANV Debut Prize.

Born in April 1991 in Nieuwendijk, Netherlands, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, whose preferred pronouns are they/them, is the youngest author to win The International Booker Prize. The Dutch author grew up in a Reformed farming family in North Brabant before moving to Utrecht and, alongside their writing career, Rijneveld still works on a dairy farm. One of the most exciting new voices in Dutch literature, Rijneveld has already won awards for both their first poetry collection Calfskin and their debut novel The Discomfort of Evening.

Following a stint as an editor, Michele Hutchison became a literary translator from Dutch. Her translations include the bestselling An American Princess by Annejet van der Zijl, Mona in Three Acts by Griet op de Beeck and Seaweed by Miek Zwamborn. She is also co-author of The Happiest Kids in the World.

The Discomfort of Evening tells the story of Jas and her devout farming family in a strict Christian community in rural Netherlands. One winter’s day, her older brother joins an ice skating trip. Resentful at being left alone, she attempts to bargain with God pitting the life of her pet rabbit against that of her brother; he never returns. As grief overwhelms the farm, Jas succumbs to a vortex of increasingly disturbing fantasies, watching her family disintegrate into a darkness that threatens to derail them all.

The Guardian described The Discomfort of Evening as ‘an unflinching study of a family falling apart in the madness of grief, rendered all the more unnerving for the childishly plain, undramatic way their compulsive behaviours are reported’. The Financial Times said ‘there is a bold beauty to the book… by using Jas’s everyday world as a metaphor for loneliness and fear, Rijneveld has created something exceptional.’ Megan Nolan for the New Statesman commented that the character of Jas ‘produces a truly haunting and savage loneliness, communicated by Rijneveld with an agile intensity I have rarely encountered.’

The Discomfort of Evening was chosen from a shortlist of six books during a lengthy and rigorous judging process, by a panel of five judges, chaired by Ted Hodgkinson, Head of Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre. The panel also includes: Lucie Campos, director of the Villa Gillet, France’s centre for international writing; Man Booker International Prize-winning translator and writer Jennifer Croft; Booker Prize longlisted author Valeria Luiselli and writer, poet and musician Jeet Thayil, whose novel Narcopolis was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012.

Chair of the judges, Ted Hodgkinson says:

‘We set ourselves an immense task in selecting a winner from our superb shortlist, filled with fiction bold enough to upend mythic foundations and burst the banks of the novel itself. From this exceptional field, and against an extraordinary backdrop, we were looking for a book that goes beyond echoing our dystopian present and possesses a timeless charge. Combining a disarming new sensibility with a translation of singular sensitivity, The Discomfort of Evening is a tender and visceral evocation of a childhood caught between shame and salvation, and a deeply deserving winner of The 2020 International Booker Prize.’

The International Booker Prize is awarded every year for a single book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. It aims to encourage more publishing and reading of quality fiction from all over the world and to promote the work of translators. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible. The contribution of both author and translator is given equal recognition, with the £50,000 prize split between them. Each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000, bringing the total value of the prize to £62,000.

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Find out what our shadow reading group thought of The Discomfort of Evening.

See the full shortlist for the 2020 Prize.

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

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