The Shadow Panel Has A Winner for the Man Booker International Prize 2016

It wasn’t easy. The choice came down to a tie between Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe and The Vegetarian by Han Kang. Neck and neck they each scored four points from the shadow panel, which required a tie-breaker according to some rule not entirely clear to me.

But then again, I’m not entirely clear on which book of all thirteen I felt should win. Personally, I loved The Story of The Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, but I don’t believe it should win because I don’t believe it can stand alone. Yet even that book, my favorite of all those long listed for the Man Booker International Prize 2016, does not compare to the way I loved The Detour, official winner of the IFFP, or The Sorrow of Angels, shadow panel winner of the IFFP, in years past.

I should mention that the shadow jury was in great favor of Ladivine by Marie NDiaye, an opinion I do not share. No, I am content with the final two choices as pictured above: The Vegetarian which is filled with images of the life of a woman gone mad, and Death by Water which is filled with the struggles of a writer and father.

Anyone who reads this blog knows what a fan I am of Japanese literature, and for me, Oe’s book is the better of the two. But, by virtue of the shadow panel jury’s rules, our winner is The Vegetarian.

That choice is especially interesting to me as it is also on the official long list. Is there a chance that the two could actually match? I anxiously await May 16, when we hear the judges’ decision as to the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2016.

Until then, a heartfelt thank you to Stu and Tony, who led the shadow panel these past few months, and my fellow panel readers: Clare, Tony, Grant, David and Lori (Twitter: @LoriFeathers). It was such a pleasure to read with all of you aficionados of translated literature.


16 thoughts on “The Shadow Panel Has A Winner for the Man Booker International Prize 2016”

  1. Thank you all in the shadow jury for your great work! I am inspired to read a Japanese writer after all your interesting posts on these writers. I feel it has to be soon. Eagerly awaiting the decision today!


    1. Lisbeth, I hope you like Japanese writers as much as I do! Do you have an idea with whom you will begin? If you want a suggestion or two, I’d be glad to help.


        1. The first time I read any Japanese literature, I had to get my mind away from an American perspective of a novel having a beginning, middle and end. So many times, Japanese novels are more a “slice of life” kind of writing, and they also often require us to suspend our disbelief. Those two ideas helped me a lot.

          That said, I highly recommend The Housekeeper and The Professor, which is a lovely, gentle book which is fairly straightforward. I also love Banana Yoshimoto’s books, particularly Kitchen. And then best of all, of course, is Haruki Murakami. Possibly start with something short of his, such as After Dark, or one of his collections of short stories, or Norwegian Wood which launched his fame. Those are a few good places to start, but I have more when you’re ready. xo


            1. That’s so fun that you already have The Housekeeper and The Professor coming to you! I was disappointed in Hotel Iris, a type of Lolita, and Revenge, a collection of rather gruesome short stories, but The Housekeeper and The Professor is truly special (in my opinion).


  2. Great work on the part of all the members of this year’s Shadow Jury. Well done – it’s a such a big commitment, but very rewarding in so many ways. It’s interesting to read your comments on the jury’s choices. I haven’t read either of your final two, but I’m glad to hear you loved The Story of the Lost Child. A fitting end to a magical series. (PS I really loved Gerbrand Bakker’s The Detour as well…Emilie still flits in and out of my mind every now and again.)


    1. It IS a very big commitment, and emotionally wearing for me. The subject matter is often so heavy, the stuff of what life is made (not necessarily what dreams are made of). Yet, the writing is so excellent, the thoughts so new, that every year I find myself highly anticipating the long list, the short list, and then the announcement of the winner.

      I’m glad you understand what I mean of The Detour…”ample make this bed”… the poetry just flows through my mind, too.


    1. Did you read A Personal Matter? That was so touching! This is quite long, but I’ve found I can’t forget it. It’s definitely worth every page as far as I’m concerned.


    1. Be prepared for The Vegetarian to be a bit (lot?) shocking. It’s not my favorite of the list, but definitely worth the read for its innovative writing. As for Oe, I would begin with A Personal Matter before beginning this rather cumbersome tome. Parts of it are quite lengthy (boring). 🙂


  3. The only one from the list that I’ve read is The Vegetarian which I loved though I did not understand all of it. It won the “real” award yes. i looked for the others but could not find them at my library. I know that they have other Oe books, so I will look for those.


  4. I’ve been off-radar, off-blog for most of this year (ie reading and reviewing but barely rarely having any time to visit my favourite blogs), so I’m coming to this late *sigh*.

    Congrats to you and the other shadow international bookers for picking the winner! Korean literature does seem to the thing right now.

    Hopefully, I will be able to keep in touch more during the shadow booker readings to come 🙂


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