The Man Booker International Prize 2018 Short List: In My Opinion They Got One Right

As you may have noticed, the Man Booker International Prize 2018 short list was revealed yesterday. But, I didn’t write a post on it yet because I needed some time to absorb the judges’ decision, as so often happens with literary prizes for which I am reading. Of the six books listed, I have read all but one (Vernon Subutex 1); of the five I have read from this list, I feel only one really ought to be on the short list.

Each book does, of course, stand out in its own way:

  • Han Kang’s writing in The White Book is gorgeous. But, I could find little connection with her content.
  • László Krasznahorkai’s book, The World Goes On, is deep and insightful, yet hopelessly dark.
  • Like A Fading Shadow would simply not end in a drawn out, boringly repetitive account of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassin, James Earl Ray and his attempted escape to Lisbon.
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad dealt with a corpse made up of body parts from the deceased in Iraq; I found it rather forced, and an ineffective way to describe the horrors within that country as the monster elicited no compassion within me, unlike the other monster by Mary Shelley. Also, what some described as humorous, I found tragic.
  • Which leaves me with Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, a book I thought to be brilliant the first time I read it, and hoped to be included in the short list. From these six, may her book be the one which wins.

All opinions are my own, and they are not to be confused with the Shadow Jury’s thoughts. Many of us are quite happy with the short list, as you will discover on Thursday, or thereabouts, when we reveal ours. Until then, here is the official list in case you haven’t yet seen it:

The 2018 shortlist (link to the brief video here):

Author (country/territory), Translator, Title (imprint)

• Virginie Despentes (France), Frank Wynne, Vernon Subutex 1 (MacLehose Press)

• Han Kang (South Korea), Deborah Smith, The White Book (Portobello Books)

• László Krasznahorkai (Hungary), John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes, The World Goes On (Tuskar Rock Press)

• Antonio Muñoz Molina (Spain), Camilo A. Ramirez, Like a Fading Shadow (Tuskar Rock Press)

• Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq), Jonathan Wright, Frankenstein in Baghdad (Oneworld)

• Olga Tokarczuk (Poland), Jennifer Croft, Flights (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

12 thoughts on “The Man Booker International Prize 2018 Short List: In My Opinion They Got One Right”

    1. I was going to save that for the post in which I reveal the Shadow Jury’s favorites, but as we might differ there, in small ways, I’ll tell you now. My favorites from the entire long list are Flights, The Flying Mountain, The Stolen Bicycle and Go, Went, Gone (although it is not as good as Erpenbeck’s End of Days). And I can’t decide about Die, My Love, which was horribly upsetting but absolutely unforgettable. It should not have been left off the short list simply due to its power. Yet, of all the books, Flights would have to be my favorite. In that respect, I am glad that it made the short list. Now we’ll see if the judges have the sense to declare it the winner. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for sharing that, I had the impression Flights was one of your favourites and so I’m glad to see it made it. I wasn’t surprised to see The Stolen Bicycle dropped after the controversy provoked by the Prize changing his nationality, bowing to political pressure, not a valid reason to exclude it of course, but still not surprising. I thought Die, My Love might make it through, it raises so many questions about the novel form, and what it aims to do, I’d be as interested to know what made them leave it off, to hear the discussion. Look forward to seeing the Shadow Jury’s favourites. 🙂

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        1. I saw all the fuss regarding The Stolen Bicycle; do you think that’s enough reason to not include it in the short list? I heard one of the judges (in the little video clip on the Man Booker site to which I linked in this post) say that the books they chose were all interesting writing (debatable) and diverse (which is certainly true).

          The other book, besides Die, My Love, which is sparking much discussion is Vernon Subutex 1; I gather that is a novel which is either loved or hated, and nothing in between. I haven’t read it yet because I can’t get my hands on it here in the US, somehow, and my copy from Quercus has not yet arrived. I’m fairly sure I will be on the side of disliking it, because I am not a person who does well with…immorality? Sin? Having not read it, I don’t know what to call it, but the author has clearly led a difficult life.

          I’d be very interested to know the judge’s thoughts on Die, My Love. It really surprises me that Vernon is included and that is excluded since they both seem violent, and “on the edge.”

          As to what the short list for the Shadow Jury will be, I’m interested in that myself. We have not hashed it out completely yet, and I am sad that I have no input for two of the books since I have not yet read them. (Having not obtained them.)


    1. I’m going to look for a quote I highlighted which I thought a perfect summary of the book; I’m glad you know of what I’m speaking. It’s not that I found him to be wrong, as much as I found him to be overwhelmingly depressing.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you for interesting sum up. Personally, I hardly like any of the books on the lists every year. Exception for Hilary Mantel`s two books. I also enjoyed Robert Seethaler`s book ”A Whole Life”, which tells a lot about life and how we can enjoy what we have. Looking forward to your next post and the shadow jury`s thoughts.


    1. I didn’t even like Mantel’s books, so I’m even more despairing than you are! Thanks for telling me about A Whole Life, I’m not familiar with that one. As for which book will win, I keep thinking of Edward St. Aubyn’s parody on literature prizes where a cookbook is declared the winner. Sometimes, the winner is just that ludicrous to me. 😉


  2. I read The White Book and it’s the only book that I read from the whole list, but I didn’t think it was one that should be on the short list. It was gorgeous in its way, but not as good as her previous works, in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll be really interested to see your take on Vernon Subutex 1 – the only one I have read. It’s a real state of the nation novel and I absolutely loved it (and can’t wait for vols 2 and 3).


    1. That, and The Imposter, are the two books I am waiting for from the publisher. The shadow jury was quite divided on Vernon; that was a book either loved or hated, and not much in between. I can’t give a verdict as I haven’t read it personally, but I am all the more intrigued as you say you “absolutely loved” it. From what I know about the author, her life as been rather distressing.

      Liked by 1 person

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