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- The International Booker Prize awards authors and translators for exemplary books.
- Below, you'll find the 2021 International Booker Prize winner and shortlist and longlist finalists.
- This year, the list includes titles nominated for the National Book Award for Translated Literature.
The Booker Prize is awarded every year to the best book written in English and published in either the UK or Ireland. Its counterpart, the International Booker Prize, is awarded to books translated into English.
Like other translated works awards, such as the National Book Award for Translated Literature, both the author and the translator are celebrated. The Booker Prize's £50,000 (about $68,032.50) prize money is divided equally between the author and translator, and both shortlisted authors and translators each receive £2,500 (about $3,401.62).
This year's panel of judges includes writers, translators, critics, and comedians - ranging from Petina Gappah, a novelist, playwright, and international trade lawyer, to Merve Emre, an author and associate English professor at the University of Oxford.
This year, the 2021 International Booker Prize winner is "At Night All Blood Is Black" by David Diop, a propulsive novel that explores a Senegalese man's search for vengeance and forgiveness after he fails to commit a mercy killing for a gravely injured friend during World War I.
Diop, who is half-Senegalese, wrote the book in response to a lack of historical information about African soldiers who fought and died for France during the war. The book's translator, the poet and novelist Moschovakis, also has a split American and Greek heritage.
Below, you'll find the shortlist of the five finalists and the longlist for the 2021 International Booker Prize.
Book descriptions provided by Amazon and lightly edited for length and clarity.
The 2021 International Booker Prize shortlist and longlist finalists:
With the death of her aunt, the narrator is left to sift through an apartment full of faded photographs, old postcards, letters, diaries, and heaps of souvenirs: A withered repository of a century of life in Russia. Carefully reassembled with calm, steady hands, these shards tell the story of how a seemingly ordinary Jewish family somehow managed to survive the myriad persecutions and repressions of the last century.
In dialogue with writers like Roland Barthes, W. G. Sebald, Susan Sontag, and Osip Mandelstam, "In Memory of Memory" is imbued with rare intellectual curiosity and a wonderfully soft-spoken, poetic voice. Dipping into various forms ― essay, fiction, memoir, travelogue, and historical documents ― Stepanova assembles a vast panorama of ideas and personalities and offers an entirely new and bold exploration of cultural and personal memory.
Note: This book also made it on the 2021 longlist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature."The Dangers of Smoking in Bed" by Mariana Enríquez and translated by Megan McDowell
Mariana Enriquez has been critically lauded for her unconventional and sociopolitical stories of the macabre. Populated by unruly teenagers, crooked witches, homeless ghosts, and hungry women, they walk the uneasy line between urban realism and horror. The stories in her new collection are as terrifying as they are socially conscious, and press into being the unspoken — fetish, illness, the female body, the darkness of human history — with bracing urgency. A woman is sexually obsessed with the human heart; a lost, rotting baby crawls out of a backyard and into a bedroom; a pair of teenage girls can't let go of their idol; an entire neighborhood is cursed to death when it fails to respond correctly to a moral dilemma.
Written against the backdrop of contemporary Argentina, and with a resounding tenderness toward those in pain, in fear, and in limbo, "The Dangers of Smoking in Bed" is Mariana Enriquez at her most sophisticated, and most chilling."The Employees" by Olga Ravn and translated by Martin Aitken
Funny and doom-drenched, "The Employees" chronicles the fate of the Six-Thousand Ship. The human and humanoid crew members complain about their daily tasks in a series of staff reports and memos. When the ship takes on a number of strange objects from the planet New Discovery, the crew becomes strangely and deeply attached to them, even as tensions boil toward mutiny, especially among the humanoids.
Olga Ravn's prose is chilling, crackling, exhilarating, and foreboding. "The Employees" probes into what makes us human, while delivering a hilariously stinging critique of life governed by the logic of productivity."The War of the Poor" by Éric Vuillard and translated by Mark Polizzotti
In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation launched an attack on privilege and the Catholic Church, but it rapidly became an established, bourgeois authority itself. Rural laborers and the urban poor, who were still being promised equality in heaven, began to question why they shouldn't have equality here and now on earth.
There ensued a furious struggle between the powerful — the comfortable Protestants — and the others, the wretched. They were led by a number of theologians, one of whom has left his mark on history through his determination and sheer energy. His name was Thomas Müntzer, and he set Germany on fire. "The War of the Poor" recounts his story — that of an insurrection through the Word."When We Cease to Understand the World" by Benjamín Labatut and translated by Adrian Nathan West
Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger — these are some of the luminaries into whose troubled lives Benjamín Labatut thrusts the reader, showing us how they grappled with the most profound questions of existence. They have strokes of unparalleled genius, alienate friends and lovers, descend into isolation and insanity. Some of their discoveries reshape human life for the better; others pave the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering. The lines are never clear.
At a breakneck pace and with a wealth of disturbing detail, Labatut uses the imaginative resources of fiction to tell the stories of the scientists and mathematicians who expanded our notions of the possible.
Note: This book also made it on the 2021 longlist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature."At Night All Blood Is Black" by David Diop and translated by Anna Moschovakis
Alfa Ndiaye is a Senegalese man who, never before having left his village, finds himself fighting as a so-called "Chocolat" soldier with the French army during World War I. When his friend Mademba Diop, in the same regiment, is seriously injured in battle, Diop begs Alfa to kill him and spare him the pain of a long and agonizing death in No Man's Land.
Unable to commit this mercy killing, madness creeps into Alfa's mind as he comes to see this refusal as a cruel moment of cowardice. Anxious to avenge the death of his friend and find forgiveness for himself, he begins a macabre ritual: every night he sneaks across enemy lines to find and murder a blue-eyed German soldier, and every night he returns to base, unharmed, with the German's severed hand. At first his comrades look at Alfa's deeds with admiration, but soon rumors begin to circulate that this super soldier isn't a hero, but a sorcerer, a soul-eater. Plans are hatched to get Alfa away from the front, and to separate him from his growing collection of hands, but how does one reason with a demon, and how far will Alfa go to make amends to his dead friend?
Note: This book was also a selection on Barack Obama's 2021 Summer Reading List.The 2021 International Booker Prize longlist
- "At Night All Blood Is Black" by David Diop, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $13.99
- "I Live in the Slums" by Can Xue, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $23.92
- "In Memory of Memory" by Mariana Stepanova, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $16.91
- "Minor Detail" by Adania Shibli, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $10.30
- "Summer Brother" by Jaap Robben, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $15.63
- "The Dangers of Smoking in Bed" by Mariana Enríquez, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $16.36
- "The Employees" by Olga Ravn, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $18.35
- "The Pear Field" by Nana Ekvtimishvili, available at Amazon from $11.16
- "The Perfect Nine" by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $20.33
- "The War of the Poor" by Éric Vuillard, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $20.33
- "When We Cease to Understand the World" by Benjamín Labatut, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $16.16
- "Wretchedness" by Andrzej Tichý, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $11.48
- "An Inventory of Losses" by Judith Schalansky, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $16.95