The longlist for the 2021 International Booker Prize, worth £50,000, features a book translated by its author for the first time, with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o recognised. Meanwhile indies Fitzcarraldo and Pushkin have clinched two nominations each.
The 13 longlisted works on the list are translated from 11 languages and originate from 12 countries across four continents.
Translator Megan McDowell appears on the longlist for the fourth time for The Dangers of Smoking in Bed (Granta), having been both shortlisted and longlisted before while all the other translators are newcomers to the prize.
Fitzcarraldo Editions was one of two independent publishers to secure two nominations: Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, translated from Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette and In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale.
Pushkin Press also garnered two longlistings: At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from French by Anna Mocschovakis along with When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut Adrian, translated from Spanish by Nathan West.
Chinese writer and critic Can Xue is the only author to have been longlisted before with I Live in the Slums (Yale University Press), translated from Chinese by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping.
The longlist includes a book translated by its author for the first time: The Perfect Nine: The Epic Gikuyu and Mumbi (Harvill Secker), written and translated from Gikuyu by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.
Two other large publishers are represented through An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky, with Jackie Smith translating from German (Quercus, MacLehose Press) and The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard, translated from French by Mark Polizzotti (Pan Macmillan).
Elswhere on the list there are another four titles from indie titles: The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili, translated from Georgian by Elizabeth Heighway (Peirene Press), The Employees by Olga Ravn translated from Danish by Martin Aitken (Lolli Editions), Summer Brother by Jaap Robben translated from Dutch by David Doherty (World Editions) and Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý translated from Swedish by Nichola Smalley (And Other Stories).
The longlist was selected from across 125 books by the 2021 judging panel consisting of cultural historian and novelist Lucy Hughes-Hallett acting as chair, joined by journalist and writer Aida Edemariam, novelist, Neel Mukherjee, professor of the history of slavery Olivette Otele as well as translator and writer George Szirtes.
Hughes-Hallett says: “In a year when we could scarcely leave our own houses, we judges have been crossing continents, transported by our reading. Every book we’ve read is unique. However a theme does emerge—migration, the pain of it, but also the fruitful interconnectedness of the modern world. Not all writers stay in their native countries. Many do, and write wonderful fiction about their hometowns. But our longlist includes a Czech/Polish author’s vision of a drug-fuelled Swedish underworld, a Dutch author from Chile writing in Spanish about German and Danish scientists, and a Senegalese author writing from France about Africans fighting in a European war.”
The shortlist for the prize will be announced on 22nd April 2021, and the winner announced on 2nd June 2021 in a virtual celebration from Coventry, City of Culture 2021.
The award aims to encourage more publishing and reading of quality works of imagination from all over the world, and to give greater recognition to the role 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 evenly between them. Each shortlisted author and translator also receives £1,000, bringing the total value of the prize to £62,000.
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