Novels by the pseudonymous Italian author Elena Ferrante, Nobel prize-winner Orhan Pamuk and a political novel banned in mainland China have all been longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International prize, celebrating the finest in global fiction translated to English.
The 13-book longlist was whittled down from 155 and consists of authors from 12 countries, in nine different languages. Two Nobel prize-winners – Pamuk and Japan’s Kenzaburō Ōe – sit alongside two debut authors: Congolese author Fiston Mwanza Mujila for Tram 83 and Finnish author Aki Ollikainen for White Hunger.
Ferrante, a literary phenomenon who famously writes under a pseudonym and rarely gives interviews, is listed for the final novel in her Neapolitan series, The Story of the Lost Child, while popular Turkish author Pamuk is listed for A Strangeness in My Mind, a sprawling story about a street vendor’s romance.
Asian writers on the longlist include South Korean writer Han Kang, for her novel The Vegetarian; Kenzaburō Ōe for Death by Water, his 16th book translated to English; Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan for his novel Man Tiger; and Chinese author Yan Lianke for The Four Books, a title that took him 20 years to plan, two to write and which was rejected by 20 publishers for its political content before being banned in mainland China.
Popular Brazillian author Raduan Nassar is listed for his “explosively erotic” 47-page story A Cup of Rage, as are Austrian author Robert Seethaler for A Whole Life and Angolan author José Eduardo Agualusa for A General Theory Of Oblivion. Two French authors, Marie NDiaye and Maylis de Kerangal are listed for their novels, Ladivine and Mend the Living respectively.
2016 marks a number of firsts for the Man Booker International prize; this is the first year since the award merged with the Independent foreign fiction prize and the first occasion that it is an annual prize, with an announced longlist. Previously the Man Booker International was awarded every second year to an author for their entire body of work, a tradition that chair of the Man Booker Foundation, Jonathan Taylor, said caused the prize to lose momentum. Winners of the Man Booker International prize for an entire body of work include Lydia Davis (2013), Philip Roth (2011) and Alice Munro (2009).
Chaired by journalist Boyd Tonkin, of the Independent, the 2016 judging panel comprises novelist and anthropologist Tahmima Anam; Professor David Bellos, director of a translation programme at Princeton University; editor and academic Daniel Medin; and poet and author Ruth Padel.
“The 13 books that the judges have chosen not only feature superb writing from Brazil to Indonesia, from Finland to South Korea, from Angola to Italy. Our selection highlights the sheer diversity of great fiction today,” Boyd Tonkin said. “From intense episodes of passion to miniature historical epics; from eerie fables of family strife to character-driven chronicles of urban life, this list showcases fiction that crosses every border. It also pays tribute to the skill and dedication of the first-rate translators who convey it to English-language readers.”
Tahmima Anam said she was “absolutely thrilled with this longlist, because it reflects the truly global spirit of the Man Booker International. It is diverse – not just in the number of countries and languages that are represented but also in the ways the authors use, stretch and challenge the novel form.”
Anam acknowledged the small number of female authors on the longlist – four out of 13 – which she said “really reflects the gender bias in who gets translated. But the good news is that, as far as translators themselves go, we have eight women to five men. I’m looking forward to re-reading the longlisted books and to another spirited debate with my fellow judges.”
A shortlist of six books will be revealed on 14 April, with each author and translator receiving £1,000. The winner will be announced on 16 May, with a £50,000 prize split equally between the author and translator of the winning book.
The 2016 Man Booker International prize longlist:
A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola), translated by Daniel Hahn and published by Harvill Secker.
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (Italy), translated by Ann Goldstein and published by Europa Editions.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea), translated by Deborah Smith and published by Portobello Books.
Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal (France), translated by Jessica Moore and published by Maclehose Press.
Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan (Indonesia), translated by Labodalih Sembiring and published by Verso Books.
The Four Books by Yan Lianke (China), translated by Carlos Rojas and published by Chatto & Windus.
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Democratic Republic of Congo/Austria), translated by Roland Glasser and published by Jacaranda.
A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar (Brazil), translated by Stefan Tobler and published by Penguin Modern Classics
Ladivine by Marie NDiaye (France), translated by Jordan Stump and published Maclehose Press.
Death by Water by Kenzaburō Ōe (Japan), translated by Deborah Boliner Boem (Atlantic Books)
White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen (Finland), translated by Emily Jeremiah & Fleur Jeremiah and published by Peirene Press.
A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk (Turkey), translated by Ekin Oklap and published by Faber & Faber
A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler (Austria), translated by Charlotte Collins and published by Picador.