The Man Booker International Prize 2018 Shortlist

If you’re looking for modern fiction recommendations, then look no further than the 6 books on the Man Booker International Prize 2018 shortlist. The awards celebrates the best international fiction novels that have been translated into English and published in the UK, with the prize being split between the author and the translator.

This years shortlist sees authors from FranceHungary, Iraq,  Poland, Spain, and  South Korea. Notable previous winners of the prize include Han Kang and László Krasznahorkai, both of whom are nominated again this year. The winner will be announced on May 22 and you can find out more details here. 

 

Vernon Subutex One by Virginie Despentes (France)

 Set in Paris, Vernon Subutex is a former record store owner. The rise of digital music has forced his store to close and Vernon ends up on the streets. We see view points of an array of distasteful characters that highlight problems faced  in modern day Europe. Political extremes, social media manipulation and drug use are all themes in the book. This is the first installment in the trilogy that definitely leaves you wanting to continue the adventure with Vernon.

The White Book by Han Kang (South Korea)

The 2016 winner of the Man Booker International prize for The Vegetarian, Han Kang, is shortlisted again in 2018 for The White Book. It is an autobiographical piece on the death of the narrators younger baby sister, who died shortly after birth. This emotional work is a meditation on color, starting with a list of white things.  In Korean funerals, white is also the color of mourning.

 

“Breath-cloud.
On cold mornings, that first white cloud of escaping breath is proof that we are living. Proof of our bodies’ warmth. Cold air rushes into dark lungs, soaks up the heat of our body and exhaled as perceptible form, white flecked with grey. Our lives’ miraculous diffusion, out into the empty air.”

― Han Kang, The White Book

Like a Fading Shadow  by Antonio Muñoz Molina (Spain)

James Earl Ray evaded the FBI for 2 months in 1968, after shooting Martin Luther King. He spent 10 of those days in Lisbon. In this historical fiction book, Molina dramatizes the life of the murderer  during that period. At the same time we see Lisbon through the eyes of the young writer, and the man he is today. By contrasting Lisbon through these different perspectives, we get to see different sides to an inspiring city and a special insight into the writer’s life.

The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai (Hungary)

This is Krasznahorkai’s seventh book from the 2015 prize winner to be translated into English. His collection of 21 unsettling stories lure you in and leave you with an altered state of mind. He creates some complex characters with his long winded writing style. One story includes a traveler in Varanasi that meets a giant on the banks of the Ganges, ranting about the nature of a single drop of water. In another a man obsessed with waterfalls and  wanders the streets of Shanghai. Another standout story is a about a man receiving a strange video from friend who then dies before they get to discuss it.

“Each text is about drawing our attention away from this world, speeding our body toward annihilation, and immersing ourselves in a current of thought or a narrative…”

― László Krasznahorkai

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq)

Borrowing heavily from Mary Shelly’s 200-year-old classic, Saadawi has created another surreal masterpiece which is wickedly funny. Set in US occupied Baghdad, Hadi is an alcoholic junk dealer. He goes around picking up stray body parts left strewn around after the bombings. He then tries to patch them together to create a whole body, with hopes of recognition and a proper burial for the completed work. We all know the story of Frankenstein, so there’s no surprise when his creation escapes and terrorizes the city. Horror and humor at it’s best.

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Poland)

Flights could be described as a connected series of anecdotes and meditations with the theme of travel. The nomadic life and that need to be on the move has produced a a thought provoking read. Not you traditional read, but a fascinating collection of short stories connected by the narrators travels. For those with wanderlust who find it hard to settle in one place, you will definitely relate to this nomadic lifestyle. The original Polish title, “Bieguni“, is a much more fitting title for the book.

“The Bieguni, or wanderers, are an obscure and possibly fictional Slavic sect who have rejected settled life for an existence of constant movement…”

 

A reaction to the shortlisted books…

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