The shortlist for the International Booker Prize 2023 was announced on Tuesday April 18th, comprising of six books.
The prize is awarded annually for the finest single work of fiction from around the world which has been translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland. It celebrates the vital work of translators, with the £50,000 prize money divided equally between the author and the translator. The shortlisted authors and translators also each receive £2,500.
The 2023 shortlist includes works originating in six countries across four continents and the winning title will be announced at a ceremony at Sky Garden in London on Tuesday 23 May.
Which titles made the shortlist?
Still Born is a profound novel about motherhood, friendship, and the power of community. It explores one of life’s most consequential decisions: whether or not to have children.
Overview: “Alina and Laura are independent and career-driven women in their mid-thirties, neither of whom have built their future around the prospect of a family. Laura has taken the drastic decision to be sterilised, but as time goes by Alina becomes drawn to the idea of becoming a mother. When complications arise in Alina’s pregnancy and Laura becomes attached to her neighbour’s son, both women are forced to reckon with the complexity of their emotions, in Nettel’s sensitive and surgically precise exploration of maternal ambivalence.”
Standing Heavy is a witty deconstruction of colonial legacies and capitalist consumption and a unique insight into everything that passes a security guard’s gaze.
Overview: “Amidst the political bickering of the inhabitants of the Residence for Students from Côte d’Ivoire and the ever-changing landscape of French immigration policy, two generations of Ivoirians attempt to make their way as undocumented workers, taking shifts as security guards at a flour mill. This sharply satirical yet poignant tale draws on the author’s own experiences as an undocumented student in Paris.”
Time Shelter is about a 'clinic for the past' that offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer's sufferers: each floor reproduces a decade in minute detail, transporting patients back in time.
Overview: “An unnamed narrator is tasked with collecting the flotsam and jetsam of the past, from 1960s furniture and 1940s shirt buttons to scents, and even afternoon light. But as the rooms become more convincing, an increasing number of healthy people seek out the clinic as a ‘time shelter’, hoping to escape the horrors of modern life - a development that results in an unexpected conundrum when the past begins to invade the present. Intricately crafted, and eloquently translated by Angela Rodel, Time Shelter cements Georgi Gospodinov’s reputation as one of the indispensable writers of our times, and a major voice in international literature.”
The novel follows the journey of a miracle baby rumored to be the child of God in search of his origins and mission.
Overview: “Baby Pascal is strikingly beautiful, brown in complexion, with grey-green eyes like the sea. But where does he come from? Is he really the child of God? So goes the rumour, and many signs throughout his life will cause this theory to gain ground. From journey to journey and from one community to another, Pascal sets off in search of his origins, trying to understand the meaning of his mission. Will he be able to change the fate of humanity? And what will the New World Gospel reveal?”
An adventure-satire of epic proportions, which sheds new light on the changes Korea experienced in its rapid transition from pre-modern to post-modern society.
Overview: “Set in a remote village in South Korea, Whale follows the lives of three linked characters: Geumbok, an extremely ambitious woman who has been chasing an indescribable thrill ever since she first saw a whale crest in the ocean; her mute daughter, Chunhui, who communicates with elephants; and a one-eyed woman who controls honeybees with a whistle. A fiction that brims with surprises and wicked humour, from one of the most original voices in South Korea.”
Eva Baltasar demonstrates her pre-eminence as a chronicler of queer voices navigating a hostile world - in prose as brittle and beautiful as an ancient saga.
Overview: “Working as a cook on a merchant ship, a woman comes to know and love Samsa, who gives her the nickname ‘Boulder’. When the couple decide to move to Reykjavik together, Samsa announces that she wants to have a child. She is already 40 and can’t bear to let the opportunity pass her by. Boulder is less enthused but doesn’t know how to say no - and so finds herself dragged along a journey that feels as thankless as it is alien. With motherhood changing Samsa into a stranger, Boulder must decide where her priorities lie and whether her yearning for freedom will trump her yearning for love.”
If you liked this post then read The history of the International Booker Prize or How do you get on The New York Times Best Sellers List? next.