24 January 13 | Chad W. Post

This morning, the finalists for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize were announced, and it’s a pretty fantastic list:

U R Ananthamurthy (India)
Aharon Appelfeld (Israel)
Lydia Davis (USA)
Intizar Husain (Pakistan)
Yan Lianke (China)
Marie NDiaye (France)
Josip Novakovich (Canada)
Marilynne Robinson (USA)
Vladimir Sorokin (Russia)
Peter Stamm (Switzerland)

What’s really fricking strange though, is this first couple paragraphs of the press release:

Anyone who could have guessed even five of the 10 novelists who have just been revealed as the finalists for the fifth Man Booker International Prize deserves a mass cap-doffing from the wider reading public. The previous incarnations of the prize have included a large cluster of well-known and indeed expected names, from Doris Lessing and Milan Kundera to Amos Oz and Joyce Carol Oates. There is, however, nothing familiar or expected about the list unveiled today by the chair of judges Sir Christopher Ricks at the DSC Jaipur Literary Festival.

It is a list that will, for many readers, open up a wealth of possibilities since perhaps only two of the writers can be said to have a wide international profile, Marilynne Robinson and Aharon Appelfeld. Robinson, an Orange Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award winner is the only one of the 10 who has been nominated for this prize before.

“Nothing familiar or expected”?Only two with a “wide international profile”? What the shit, Man Booker?

Ok, so I’m not familiar with Ananthamurthy or Husain, but all the others are, if not household names, definitely familiar to readers of Three Percent or anyone interested in international literature.

In fact, we’ve reviewed books by all of the foreign authors on here (with the exception of Marie NDiaye, but we have two reviews of her books in the works), and everyone knows of Lydia Davis for either her writing or her translations of Proust and Flaubert. Have some self-respect Man Booker International Prize Press Release Writer—you don’t have to apologize for not including Philip Roth or Haruki Murakami on this list. (Besides, why would you?)

Not to kick a sleeping horse, but here’s another strange bit from this oddly written press release:

The list of finalists reveals other things too [Fiammetta Rocco] thinks. This is a young though very experienced judging panel (although not as young as Marie NDiaye who, at 45, is the most youthful Man Booker International finalist to date) and its choices show a taste for Modernism rather than conventional narrative: “the judges were interested in novelists who push the form”, says Rocco. Many of the novelists – NDiaye, Novakovich and Sorokin among them – are fascinated by cultural migrants which produces in turn a very rich literature. Nevertheless, as Christopher Ricks stresses, these are novelists whose work is different rather than similar.

One of the benefits of such a high profile prize is that it brings with it its own sense of momentum. It is a prerequisite of the prize that the finalists’ work should be available in English and since the MBI imprimatur is a guarantee of quality their nomination will hopefully lead to more of their work being translated in more countries. The winner of the £60,000 prize can also choose a translator of their work to receive a £15,000 award of their own.

The announcement of this year’s prize recipient will be made at a dinner at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 22nd May and with this list the judges have already made sure the name will be a surprise.

In case you didn’t catch that, this will be a “surprise” because NO ONE KNOWS WHO THESE CRAZY MODERNIST AUTHORS ARE!

Sorry, but fuck off, Man Booker. I like this list of authors a lot, but your public relations spin is annoying and condescending both to readers and to the authors on your list.


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