Israeli comic novel up for International Booker Prize

Israeli comic novel up for International Booker Prize

David Grossman and the jacket for A Horse Walks Into a BarImage copyright
Jonathan Cape

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David Grossman’s works have been translated into 36 languages

A novel about an Israeli stand-up comic having a meltdown on stage is one of six titles shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize.

David Grossman’s A Horse Walks Into a Bar is one of two books by Israeli authors in line for the £50,000 award.

The other Israeli author, Amoz Oz, was previously up for the prize in 2007.

Writers from Argentina, Denmark, France and Norway are also in contention for the award, which jointly recognises authors and their English translators.

Each shortlisted author and translator automatically receives £1,000.

Image copyright
Chatto & Windus

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Oz was shortlisted for the prize when it recognised an author’s body of work

Oz is shortlisted for Judas, about a young student in 1950s Jerusalem who becomes fascinated with the history of a mysterious old house.

The prize’s judges described it as “a thought-provoking interrogation of history and betrayal [that] shines with a burning curiosity and profound intelligence.”

The judging panel also had praise for Grossman’s work, which they called “an extraordinary story… written with empathy, wisdom and emotional intelligence.”

A Horse Walks Into a Bar and Judas are translated by Jessica Cohen and Nicholas de Lange respectively.

Here’s what they had to say about the other titles up for the award.

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Fitzcarraldo Editions

Compass by Mathias Enard (France)

Translator: Charlotte Mandell

What’s it about? An insomniac musicologist looks back on his life and his many travels to the Middle East.

What did the judges think? “A restless but hypnotic novel written with remarkable erudition and sensitivity.”

Image copyright
Maclehose

The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (Norway)

Translator: Don Bartlett

What’s it about? A young woman born on a Norwegian island is sent to the mainland to work for a wealthy family.

What did the judges think? “A flawless portrait of family life in a remote island setting.”

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Pushkin Press

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors (Denmark)

Translator: Misha Hoekstra

What’s it about? A single woman in her 40s hopes to liven up her life by learning to drive.

What did the judges think? “An astonishingly assured portrait of one woman’s mixture of wonder and self-doubt.”

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Oneworld

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina)

Translator: Megan McDowell

What’s it about? A young woman dying in a clinic reveals what brought her to her terminal state.

What did the judges think? “As mesmerising, magical and enchanting as the strange and horrific tale it tells.”


Last year’s prize went to The Vegetarian, written by South Korean author Han Kang and translated by Deborah Smith.

Her win came at the expense of Elena Ferrante, the pseudonymous Italian author whose true identity was recently exposed.

This is only the second year that the prize will be awarded to a single book.

Before 2016, the Man Booker International was awarded every second year to an author for their entire body of work.


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