Founded in 2016, The Man Booker International Prize exists to spread fiction in translation to worldwide audience. The Man Booker Prize itself, established several decades earlier in 1969, “guarantees a worldwide readership” and an enormous spike in book sales; the international version aims to offer the same visibility to an international author whose work may otherwise remain lodged behind the language barrier—tragically inaccessible to the general populace. The Man Booker International Prize aims to change that.
Given the nature of the award, its winners are inherently diverse: drawn from throughout the world and writing in languages that may be less accessible to a Western audience. While some nominees are from Western Europe and South America, many are also from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Asia, regions whose languages are not taught as frequently in Western schools. The publicity surrounding this prestigious award typically grants its winner an international readership whose value cannot be understated—for instance, a novel written in Polish, a less widely-spoken language, may have an incredibly limited audience regardless of the quality of writing. Poland also has a lower population density than a larger country like China, further limiting the market of possible buyers.
This year in particular, the award’s diversity is more than a matter of geography. Women comprise eight of thirteen longlisted nominees, and all but two books are small press publications. In the age of self-publishing and indie bookstores—an age of increasing ability to shirk the confines of tradition—these nominations are deeply reflective of the increasingly diverse (and increasingly individualized!) nature of publishing. Of course, it’s a matter of geography as well—translated languages include Polish, Spanish, Korean, Arabic, French, German, Chinese, Swedish, and Dutch.
This year, the group of five judges is comprised entirely of women and people of color (though no women of color), each a respected academic or writer. The full list of nominees is now available; the shortlist is anticipated for April 9th. In the award’s tradition of respecting translation as an art form, both the author and translator will receive an even half of the £50,000 prize.
One author to watch out for is Olga Tokarczuk, whose Polish-language novel Flights won the prize in 2018. She’s up for a second consecutive nomination: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, has made the list for 2019.
All In-text Images Via Man Booker Prize Twitter.
Featured Image Via Penguin Books.