Everything you need to know about the shortlist ahead of the International Man Booker announcement

22nd May 18 | Lifestyle

The range of works span from Iraq to Poland.


The winner of the International Man Booker prize will be revealed tonight, so what better time to take a look at the six works on the shortlist.

Even though only one book can be awarded the £50,000 prize, the shortlist celebrates some of the best fiction from around the world translated to English in the past year.

Writers from France, South Korea, Spain, Hungary, Iraq and Poland have made the shortlist, and the prize money will be equally divided between the author and the translator. All the writers on the list are well established in their field, with a number of books already under their belt.

Such a range of nationalities inevitably results in a varied and diverse list of novels, so here’s everything you need to know about each.

Vernon Subutex 1

By Virginie Despentes, translated by Franke Wynne (MacLehose Press)

French author Virginie Despentes is known for what The Spectator calls “trash” fiction, and Vernon Subutex 1 is no exception. It is the first of a trilogy centring around Vernon, who used to run a hip record store in Bastille.

In 2006 the shop shut thanks to the digital revolution, and now at nearly 50 he’s down and out. The one thing that might help is the fact that he’s in possession of the last filmed recordings of a famous musician, who died of a drug overdose.

The White Book

By Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith (Portobello Books)

Han Kang is no stranger to this list, having won the prize in 2016 for The Vegetarian. The White Book is a much more experimental offering from the South Korean author, and is loosely narrated by an unnamed character who has moved to a European city.

In part, she cannot escape the story of her older sister, who died two hours after being born. The rest of the book is a meditation on the colour white in its various forms.

The World Goes On

By László Krasznahorkai, translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes (Tuskar Rock Press)

Like Kang, László Krasznahorkai is also a former victor – he won the prize in 2015 in its former iteration (which paid tribute to bodies of work rather than just one novel).

The World Goes On is a collection of 21 stories from the Hungarian author. It narrates from a variety of perspectives – everything from a child labourer in a Portuguese marble quarry to a Hungarian interpreter obsessed with waterfalls wandering the streets of Shanghai.

Like a Fading Shadow

By Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Camilo A Ramirez (Tuskar Rock Press)

Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina has delved into history for Like a Fading Shadow. It tells the story of James Earl Ray, who murdered Martin Luther King Jr.  in 1968. After the murder he used various aliases and travelled all over the world fleeing law enforcement.

The novel tells in particular of the ten days he spent in Lisbon when on the run. Not just historical fiction, it also interweaves the author’s own experiences in the Portuguese city.

Frankenstein in Baghdad

By Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright (Oneworld)

Frankenstein in Baghdad is a grimly surrealist examination of US-occupied Baghdad by Iraqi Ahmed Saadawi. It features the ghoulish antiques dealer Hadi who collects human body parts (a pastiche of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), stitching them together to make a corpse – only to find that he has created an autonomous monster.

It is an extraordinary portrait of individual desires set against the horrifying backdrop of war.


By Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Olga Tokarczuk is one of the most famous authors in Poland, and Flights is one of her more experimental offerings. It is a series of fragments loosely linked together, from the 17th century to today. It has broad themes of travel and human anatomy running throughout.

It was actually published in Poland in 2007, but it’s only been translated into English this year, by American Jennifer Croft.

© Press Association 2018