The Man Booker International Shortlist has been announced!
Five of the authors have been nominated for the first time (Yan appeared on the list of finalists in 2013). The nominees include two winners
of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize: Agualusa (2007) and Pamuk (1990) who also won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. It is the first appearance on a Man Booker International Prize list for writers from Angola, Austria, South Korea and Turkey.
The translators are predominantly female and of UK or US descent. The youngest are Turkish-born Londoner Ekin Oklap (27) and Deborah Smith (28) who only started learning Korean at the age of 21.
A General Theory of Oblivion
by Jose Eduardo Agualusa
On the eve of Angolan independence, Ludo bricks herself into her apartment, where she will remain for the next thirty years. She lives off vegetables and pigeons, burns her furniture and books to stay alive and keeps herself busy by writing her story on the walls of her home.
The outside world slowly seeps into Ludo’s life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of a man fleeing his pursuers and a note attached to a bird’s foot. Until one day she meets Sabalu, a young boy from the street who climbs up to her terrace.
The Story of the Lost Child
by Elana Ferrante
The quartet traces the friendship between Elena and Lila, from their childhood in a poor neighbourhood in Naples, to their thirties, when both women are mothers but each has chosen a different path. Their lives are still inextricably linked, for better or worse, especially when it comes to the drama of a lost child.
by Han Kang
Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more ‘plant-like’ existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares.
In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision is a shocking act of subversion. Her passive rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, leading her bland husband to self-justified acts of sexual sadism. His cruelties drive her towards attempted suicide and hospitalisation. She unknowingly captivates her sister’s husband, a video artist. She becomes the focus of his increasingly erotic and unhinged artworks, while spiralling further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming – impossibly, ecstatically – a tree.
Fraught, disturbing and beautiful, The Vegetarian is a novel about modern day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.
The Four Books
by Yan Lianke
In the ninety-ninth district of a sprawling labour camp, the Author, Musician, Scholar, Theologian and Technician – and hundreds just like them – are undergoing Re-education, to restore their revolutionary zeal and credentials.
In charge of this process is the Child, who delights in draconian rules, monitoring behaviour and confiscating treasured books. But when bad weather arrives, followed by the ‘three bitter years’, the intellectuals are abandoned by the regime and left on their own to survive. Divided into four narratives, The Four Books tells the story of the Great Famine, one of China’s most devastating and controversial periods.
A Strangeness in My Mind
by Orhan Pamuk
Since his boyhood in a poor village in Central Anatolia, Mevlut Karataş has fantasized about what his life would become. Not getting as far in school as he’d hoped, at the age of twelve, he comes to Istanbul – ‘the center of the world’ – and is immediately enthralled both by the city being demolished and the new one that is fast being built. He follows his father’s trade, selling boza (a traditional Turkish drink) on the street, and hoping to become rich, like other villagers who have settled the desolate hills outside the booming metropolis.
But chance seems to conspire against him. He spends three years writing love letters to a girl he saw just once at a wedding, only to elope by mistake with her sister. And though he grows to cherish his wife and the family they have, his relations all make their fortunes while his own years are spent in a series of jobs leading nowhere; he is sometimes attracted to the politics of his friends and intermittently to the lodge of a religious guide.
But every evening, without fail, he still wanders the streets of Istanbul, selling boza and wondering at the ‘strangeness’ in his mind, the sensation that makes him feel different from everyone else, until fortune conspires once more to let him understand at last what it is he has always yearned for.
Told from the perspectives of many beguiling characters, A Strangeness in My Mind is a modern epic of coming of age in a great city, and a mesmerizing narrative sure to take its place among Pamuk’s finest achievements.
A Whole Life
by Robert Seethaler
Andreas lives his whole life in the Austrian Alps, where he arrives as a young boy taken in by a farming family. He is a man of very few words and so, when he falls in love with Marie, he doesn’t ask for her hand in marriage, but instead has some of his friends light her name at dusk across the mountain.
When Marie dies in an avalanche, pregnant with their first child, Andreas’ heart is broken. He leaves his valley just once more, to fight in WWII – where he is taken prisoner in the Caucasus – and returns to find that modernity has reached his remote haven…
About the Contributor
Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.