A debut published by Oneworld, Fever Dream by Argentinian novelist Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell, has been shortlisted for the £50,000 Man Booker International Prize 2017, which celebrates "the finest" translated fiction from around the world. It features alongside two novels by established Israeli authors, Amos Oz, a previous finalist for the prize, and David Grossman.
This is the second year of the "newly evolved" Man Booker International Prize, its aim to put a spotlight on fiction in translation by rewarding original authors and translators equally. The winners will receive an equal portion of the £50,000 prize while each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000. The winners will also benefit from publicity generated by the award - 2016's winner The Vegetarian by Korean author Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith (Portobello Books), has chalked up 160,000 sales for the UK edition alone, according to award organisers.
The panel of judges, chaired by Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and comprising writers Daniel Hahn, Elif Shafak, Chika Unigwe and Helen Mort, praised Schweblin's debut for its "strange but compelling" narrative they said had been "brilliantly translated" by Dowell. They added of the book, a story about obsession, identity and motherhood: "This is amazing storytelling that seems to be reminding us of the uncomfortable truth that there are forces stronger than love, that love – no matter how powerful, no matter how closely guarded – cannot always protect those we love."
Oneworld's Fever Dream is one of three novels published by independents on the shortlist. Pushkin Press has Danish author Dorthe Nors' Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, translated by Misha Hoekstra and Fitzcarraldo Editions has Compass by Prix Goncourt winner Mathias Enard from France, translated by Charlotte Mandell.
The other half of the shortlist is split between Quercus imprint Maclehose, for Don Bartlett and Don Shaw's joint translation of Nordic author Roy Jacobsen's The Unseen, and two Penguin Random House imprints which both published Israeli novels: David Grossman's A Horse Walks Into a Bar, translated by Jessica Cohen (Jonathan Cape) and Amos Oz's Judas, translated by old hand Nicholas de Lange (Chatto & Windus), for whom Judas is the 17th novel by Oz he has translated.
Novels on the shortlist originate from Israel, South America, and Europe, with the settings ranging from an Israeli comedy club to contemporary Copenhagen, a sleepless night in Vienna to a troubled delirium in Argentina. The list is dominated by contemporary settings but also features a divided Jerusalem of 1959 and a remote island in Norway in the early 20th century. Four of the books were translated by Americans and two by British authors.
Nick Barley, chair of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize judging panel, said: "Our shortlist spans the epic and the everyday. From fevered dreams to sleepless nights, from remote islands to overwhelming cities, these wonderful novels shine a light on compelling individuals struggling to make sense of their place in a complex world."
Luke Ellis, c.e.o. of Man Group, added: "Many congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and translators. We are very proud to sponsor the Man Booker International Prize as it continues to celebrate talent from all over the world. The prize plays a very important role in promoting literary excellence on a global scale, as well as underscoring Man Group’s charitable focus on literacy and education, and our commitment to creativity and excellence."
The winner of the 2017 award will be announced on 14th June at a formal dinner at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Public events that the authors, translators and judges will attend in the run up to the prize announcement will include: an event at Hay Festival on 27th May, as part of which a jury of Man Booker alumni will judge who might have won a version of the new prize in the first year of the Hay Festival in 1988; an event entitled "Translation at its Finest" at Foyles, organised in partnership with English PEN, on 12th June; and a Man Booker International Prize event, chaired by James Naughtie with Waterstones at St James’s Church Piccadilly, being held the evening before the prize announcement on 13th June.
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