Tuesday 13 March 2018

Han Kang and Wu Ming-Yi contenders for Man Booker International Prize

The Man Booker International Prize celebrates works of translated fiction from around the world. The prize is awarded every year for a single book, which is translated into English and published in the UK. The work of translators is equally rewarded, with the GBP50,000 prize divided between the author and the translator of the winning entry. The 13 novels in contention for the 2018 prize has just been announced. European languages dominate, but titles have been translated from 10 different languages, including Asian and Middle Eastern ones.

Han Kang has made the longlist for The White Book, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith. Wu Ming-Yi is also in contention for The Stolen Bicycle, translated from Chinese by  Darryl Sterk.

Han Kang, who won the prize in 2016 for The Vegetarian, also translated by Deborah Smith, is one of South Korea's most lauded novelists, and Deborah Smith is a foremost Korean-English translator. The White Book concerns an unnamed narrator who moves to a European city where she is haunted by the story of her older sister, who died a mere two hours after birth. As she contemplates the child's short life she focuses on whiteness and all it symbolises. The White Book is a meditation on colour, beginning with a list of white things. It is a book about mourning, rebirth and the tenacity of the human spirit. It investigates the fragility, beauty and strangeness of life.

Wu Ming-Yi is one of Taiwan's most innovative young novelists, who has won the China Times Open Book Award six times, and Darryl Sterk, a Chinese-English literary translator for a decade,  has an interest in translation to and from Taiwan's indigenous languages. The Stolen Bicycle concerns Cheng, a novelist, who once wrote a book based on his father’s disappearance 20 years ago. One day he receives a reader’s email asking whether his father’s bicycle disappeared as well. Perplexed and amused, Cheng decides to track down the bicycle. The search takes him on an epic quest, deep into the secret world of antique bicycle collectors via a scavenger’s treasure trove and the mountain home of an aboriginal photographer. He also finds himself caught up in the strangely intertwined stories of Lin Wang, the oldest elephant who ever lived, the soldiers who fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia during World War II and the secret worlds of the butterfly handicraft makers.

The longlist was selected by a panel of five judges, chaired by Lisa Appignanesi, well-known in the UK as an author and cultural commentator. The other judges were Michael Hofmann, poet, reviewer and translator from German; Hari Kunzru, author of five novels including The Impressionist and White Tears; Tim Martin, journalist and literary critic, and Helen Oyeyemi, author of novels, plays and short stories including The Icarus Girl.

Lisa Appignanesi says: “Judging this Man Booker International Prize has been an exhilarating adventure. We have travelled across countries, cultures, imaginations, somehow to arrive at what could have been an even longer longlist. It’s one which introduces a wealth of talent, a variety of forms and some writers little known in English before. It has great writing and translating energy and we hope readers take as much pleasure in discovering the work as we did.”

The full 2018 longlist is:

Laurent Binet, for Function of Language, translated from French by Sam Taylor
Javier Cercas, for The Impostor, translated from Spanish by Frank Wynne
Virginie Despentes for Vernon Subutex 1, translated from French by Frank Wynne
Jenny Erpenbeck, for  Go, Went, Gone, translated from German by Susan Bernofsky
Han Kang, for The White Book, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith
Ariana Harwicz for Die, My Love, translated from Spanish by  Sarah Moses &  Carolina

László Krasznahorkai for The World Goes On, translated from Hungarian by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet  & George Szirtes
Antonio Muñoz Molina for Like a Fading Shadow, translated from Spanish by Camilo A. Ramirez
Christoph Ransmayr for The Flying Mountain, translated from Austrian by Simon Pare
Ahmed Saadawi, for Frankenstein in Baghdad translated from Arabic by Jonathan Wright
Olga Tokarczuk for Flights, translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft
Wu Ming-Yi for The Stolen Bicycle, translated fom Chinese by Darryl Sterk
Gabriela Ybarra for The Dinner Guest, translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer

The shortlist of six books will be announced on 12 April at an event at Somerset House in London, and the winner of the 2018 prize will be announced on 22 May at a dinner at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.