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Shortlist for the International Booker Prize 2020 announced

Six novels have been whittled down from 124 considered titles to make the International Booker Prize shortlist for 2020.

Judges announced the six contenders for the prize, which celebrates the world’s finest translated fiction, in a digital announcement today.

The shortlisted authors span origins from North and South America, the Middle East, South-East Asia and Europe and the winning author and translator will split the £50,000 prize between them, and each of the shortlisted books will receive £1,000 for both the author and translator.

The novels included in this year’s shortlist have been translated from five languages: Spanish, German, Dutch, Farsi and Japanese. Common themes in these books include examining trauma, loss and sweeping illness.

The International Booker Prize Shortlist for 2020

  • The Enlightenment of The Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar (Farsi – Iran), with an anonymous translator
  • The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara (Spanish – Argentina), translated by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh
  • Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann (German – Germany), translated by Ross Benjamin
  • Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (Spanish – Mexico), translated by Sophie Hughes
  • The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese – Japan), translated by Stephen Snyder
  • The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Dutch – Netherlands), translated by Michele Hutchison

A panel of five judges selected the works in this year’s shortlist. Chaired by Ted Hodgkinson, Head of Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre, it also includes Lucie Campos, director of the Villa Gillet, France’s centre for international writing; Booker International Prize-winning translator and writer Jennifer Croft; LA Times Book Prize for Fiction-winning author Valeria Luiselli and writer, poet and musician Jeet Thayil, whose novel Narcopolis was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2012.

Hodgkinson said in a statement: “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.”

Three of the shortlisted novels have been inspired by its respective nation’s history. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar looks at the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran; The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara explores gaucho culture in 1870s Argentina and Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann examines the Thirty Years’ War in Germany.

The other shortlisted titles, Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa and The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, all explore how the effect of trauma, whether caused through emotional loss or acts of violence, shapes our experiences and how we approach the world.​

While the prize winner was set to be announced on May 19 in a ceremony in London, a Booker Prize spokesperson said details are ‘TBC’ but the announcement date remains the same.