The Man Booker International Prize celebrates works of fiction from around the world, that have English translations published in the UK. The shortlist of six books in contention for the 2018 prize has just been announced. The GBP50,000 prize for the winning book will be divided equally between its author and translator.
The list includes Han Kang, and Deborah Smith, who together won the prize in 2016 for The Vegetarian.
Seoul-based Han Kang is one of South Korea's foremost novelists. Her writing has won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today's Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. The Vegetarian was her first novel to be translated into English. She is also the author of Human Acts.
Deborah Smith translated both The Vegetarian and Human Acts into English. She has also translated two novels by Bae Suah, A Greater Music and Recitation.
This time around the pair are in contention with The White Book, in which an unnamed narrator 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.
The judges comment: “The White Book is a very delicate, very slight and measured piece of work. It’s a collection of white things; white is the colour of mourning and the colour of non-existence. It is a glimpsed story of an older sibling of Hang Kang’s who was born and very quickly died. It expresses respect and represents the guilt of being alive.”
The full short list is:
Virginie Despentes, for Vernon Subutex 1, translated from French by Frank Wynne
Han Kang, for The White Book, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith
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
Ahmed Saadawi, for Frankenstein in Baghdad, transited from Arabic by Jonathan Wright
Olga Tokarczuk, for Flights, translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft
Lisa Appignanesi, chair of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize judging panel, comments:"This is a shortlist emblematic of the many adventures of fiction – its making and reading. We have mesmeric meditations, raucous, sexy, state-of-the-nation stories, haunting sparseness and sprawling tales; enigmatic cabinets of curiosity, and daring acts of imaginative projection – all this plus sparkling encounters with prose in translation. We were sorry to have shed so much of our longlist talent, but this is a shortlist to read and re-read."