Writers from 4 continents up for International Booker Prize

Photo: International Booker Prize website The 13 longlisted titles for this year's International Booker Prize

Chinese writer Can Xue and Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, both long-favoured contenders for the Nobel Prize for literature, are among nominees for the International Booker Prize for fiction. Can Xue’s “I Live in the Slums” and Ngugi’s “The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi” are among 13 books on the longlist for the 50,000 pound prize.

The list announced Tuesday features works from four continents, including “The War of the Poor” by France’s Eric Vuillard, “In Memory of Memory” by Russian writer Maria Stepanova, “The Dangers of Smoking in Bed” by Argentina’s Mariana Enriquez and “Minor Detail” by Palestinian author Adania Shibli.

European writers, however, dominate, responsible for eight of the 13 works longlisted from the 125 books submitted, which are translated from 11 languages and originate from 12 countries. Newcomers also dominate this year’s International Booker Prize longlist, with only two of the 25 authors and translators – Megan McDowell and Can Xue – having previously been longlisted.

The longlist also includes a book translated by its author for the first time. The aforementioned Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o translated his own novel from his mother tongue, Kikuyu.

Writer Lucy Hughes-Hallett, who heads the judging panel, said a theme of many of the books was “migration - the pain of it, but also the fruitful interconnectedness of the modern world.”

“Authors cross borders, and so do books, refusing to stay put in rigidly separated categories. We’ve read books that were like biographies, like myths, like essays, like meditations, like works of history - each one transformed into a work of fiction by the creative energy of the author’s imagination. Thanks to those remarkable books, and to their translators, we’ve been freed to explore the world. We hope this prize will inspire many more readers to follow us,” her statement read.

The six finalists are set to be revealed on 22 April and the winner on 2 June.

The International Booker Prize is awarded every year to a book of fiction in any language that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. It is run alongside the Booker Prize for English-language fiction. The prize money is split between the book’s author and its translator.

Last year’s winner was The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchison, which has sold over 50,000 copies of the UK edition and is being translated into 40 languages.

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