- The International Booker Prize longlist for 2023 features books from 12 countries and translations from 11 languages – including first-time nominations for works in Bulgarian, Catalan and Tamil.
- The titles come from authors in countries as diverse as Ukraine, India, Sweden and South Korea.
- Reading books from a variety of countries can help to improve our cultural awareness.
If you want to follow an ex-Soviet security officer and an ageing hippy around the Ukrainian city of Lviv, explore the lives of people from Côte D’Ivoire trying to survive as undocumented workers in France, or spend some time with a cook on a merchant ship off the coast of Chile, then the International Booker Prize has just provided your next reading list.
The annual award recognizes the best fiction from anywhere in the world that has been translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland. This year’s longlist of 13 titles features books from 12 countries and translations from 11 languages – including first-time nominations for works in Bulgarian, Catalan and Tamil.
International Booker Prize 2023 longlist
Here’s a rundown of what’s on this year’s International Booker Prize 2023 longlist, including which countries the authors are from and the language their work was originally written in.
The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé (France, born in Guadeloupe; translated from French)
“Maryse Condé is one of the greatest Francophone authors and the great voice of the Caribbean,” according to the International Booker judges. At the age of 89, she’s also the oldest writer ever to be longlisted for the prize. Mixing Caribbean myths with Bible stories, this book follows a beautiful young boy who finds himself the subject of rumours that he is the son of God. As the boy grows up, he sets off in search of his origins.
Andrey Kurkov has previously written books about a penguin who crosses paths with the mafia. This time round, he’s brought together an unusual collection of folk (including the ex-Soviet security officer and ageing hippy mentioned earlier) in a Lviv cemetery for a novel that combines black humour and magic realism to provide a loving portrait of a Ukrainian city.
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It may be just over 100 pages long, but Eva Baltasar’s Boulder contains “ the sensations and experiences of a dozen more ordinary novels”, according to the Booker judges. It tells the story of a female cook nicknamed Boulder who works on a merchant ship and loves the freedom that her job offers. When she falls in love with another woman who wants to settle down and have a child, Boulder has to decide whether freedom or love is more important to her.
A “clinic for the past” offers a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers by taking artefacts from different decades and creating meticulous replicas of these lost eras. As word gets around, people who do not have Alzheimer’s begin seeking out the clinic as a “time shelter” to escape from the troubles of the present. Past International Booker winner Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk says the novel sits on “a special shelf in my library that I reserve for books that demand to be revisited”.
Three people from two different generations arrive in France from Côte d’Ivoire. Working as undocumented workers doing security shifts at a flour mill, their stories expose the legacies of French colonial history, from the optimism of the 1960s to the realities 60 years later. The plot bears similarities to the life of the book’s author, GauZ’ (real name Patrick Armand-Gbaka Brede), who moved to Paris from Côte d’Ivoire in 1999.
Described by the judges as “a riot of a book” and said to have parallels to Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Whale links together a series of stories about various people (and ghosts) in a remote village in South Korea – including someone who controls honeybees with a whistle. It was first published in South Korea in 2003, but has only recently been translated into English.
This is the first book originally written in Tamil to make the International Booker longlist. It follows a young couple from different castes who risk the anger of their local community by deciding to marry. Set in southern India, the Times Literary Supplement applauded the book for its use of Indian vernacular and for “deftly capturing the rhythms of domestic rural life”.
Two career-driven women battle with the decision of whether to have children. One decides to, but faces complications during pregnancy. The other decides to get sterilized, but then finds herself becoming a mother figure to her neighbour’s son. “The novel poses some of the knottiest questions about freedom, disability and dependence – all in language so blunt it burns,” the Booker judges say.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 changes everything for four teenagers in the East German city of Leipzig. A cocktail of optimistic dreams, partying, drugs and crime ensue, in a novel that tells what the Booker judges describe as “the story of German unification as it did not appear on your TV screen”.
A set of triplets is born in Sweden in 1989. They all become very different people, and adulthood consequently takes them all to very different corners of the world, but a call from their mother pulls them back together. It turns out one of them may have been switched in the hospital after their birth and that each one of the triplets thinks it was them.
Drawing on the author’s experiences growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, Ninth Building is a series of connected stories about the people living in a single apartment building. As well as writing novels, Zou Jingzhi has penned film scripts for acclaimed directors such as Wong Kar Wai.
A recently widowed artist returns home to Oslo to prepare a retrospective of her work, much of which focuses on the subject of motherhood. But having not seen her own family for decades, her arrival back in the city where her own mother lives leads to the artist opening up more than just her career history. The novel was praised by the New York Times for portraying the “psychological warfare of familial conflict”.
This is a thriller with a very non-traditional thriller plot – a farmer in a French hamlet is trying to organize a party for his wife’s 40th birthday. Set over the course of one day, things start to go wrong when menacing letters arrive and strangers begin lurking round the nearby houses. “Imagine a Stephen King thriller hijacked by Proust,” one reviewer says.
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Republished from the World Economic Forum.