A Brief Summary Of Each Book Long-listed for the Man Booker International Prize, and My Favorites in Order

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1. The Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli: an impeccable portrayal of friendships, told with the hope and innocence of young men who are facing danger ahead, the kind only war can bring.

2. Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk: a mystery of sorts, with the love of animals at its core, but also including the eccentricities of a woman dismayed by the world around her.

3. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi: a story of several generations living in Oman, showing me life in the Middle East in ways that do not make me feel the need to writhe against their culture, nor defend my own.

4. The Shape of The Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez: a disconcerting view of history as we’ve been taught, reminding us that what we know to be true probably isn’t. Especially if it comes from the hands of the government.

5. The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa: depicting the difficulties of immigration for those who need to leave their country and those who try to help them.

6. The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann: a German man travels through Japan tracing Basho’s footsteps as he describes nature and tries to find himself.

7. At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong: an architect recognizes the mistakes he made for his own growth and profession at the expense of others when it’s too late to do anything about them.

8. The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg: a bitter account of the dreadful life led by Valerie Solanas, the woman who tried to kill Andy Warhol.

9. Love In The Time of The Millennium by Can Xue: a bizarre, nonlinear account of characters searching for love and meaning in China.

10. The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zeran: counts and recounts the bodies of the dead in Santiago, Chile, through the eyes of two friends, hoping to make sense of the city around them.

11. Jokes for The Gunman by Mazen Maarouf: short stories about war, pain, and disappointment told with distressing irony, often from youthful points of view.

12. Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin: incredibly imaginative short stories of the vilest nature with not a shred of hope or redemption in any of them.

13. The Years by Annie Ernaux: one woman’s memoirs, with a particular emphasis on France, ultimately reflecting her disappointment with authority in general and men in particular as she recounts the experiences of her life. Some of which are universal.

And now I await the official announcement of the short list from the Man Booker International Prize judges, due April 9, wondering which six of these thirteen will be the favored ones. Meanwhile, the Shadow Jury finishes their reading of the long list and is compiling a list of our favorite six. Do not expect that my favorites will reflect the Shadow Jury’s favorites. From the comments and scores we have determined in private so far, I can already see that there are large differences of opinion. But, this is what makes reading together so much fun: finding out what is critical to one another in the literary world.

10 thoughts on “A Brief Summary Of Each Book Long-listed for the Man Booker International Prize, and My Favorites in Order

    • It sounds like you will be in line with my fellow jury members, none of whom liked The Four Soldiers and all of whom adored The Years. Or, at least from the scores that have been entered so far. There is no way I could vote for the later, which I don’t feel belongs in the long-list in the first place as it is an essay (in list form) of nonfiction. But, that’s a whole other bone of contention which Fitzcarraldo has tried to justify by saying her writing is just plain wonderful and needs to be acknowledged.

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  1. I think your top two are the books I’m most interested in reading from this list. The Years is an interesting one – lots of raves for that book, but your reservations have definitely given me pause! Thanks for all your reviews, Bellezza – I’ve enjoyed seeing your perspectives.

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    • Thank you, Jacqui, for reading these posts of mine: pure opinion, as they are. I am not even vaguely a professional reviewer, and I wonder sometimes why it is that I keel this blog other than that I am so passionate about reading and sharing books with others. I do believe you would like The Four Soldiers as you intimated. 😊

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  2. Thank you for summarizing these and for your previously published thoughts on them. Not much on this year’s list seems attractive to this humble reader. Curious, are any of the authors nominated for the U.K.’s top literary award actually from the U.K.?

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    • I am glad that you have read my thoughts, Michael, and several people feom my Shadow Panel have mentioned that this year’s list was less than exciting. Certainly Tony and I were disappointed that Japan was poorly represented by the omission of several good books: The Emissary, The Tokyo Ueno Station, and Convenience Store Woman to name a few. To answer your question, no. There were no authors from the UK (I’m sure because they must be translated into English and published in the UK to be eligible for the prize).

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  3. Thanks for all your wonderful reviews and for this summary of them. I must admit your top two books are the ones I’m most interested in reading. The big question now is: what are you going to read next now that this project is over?!

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    • Bless your heart, Kim, because I think no one on the Shadow Panel likes them but me!😊 I would seriously love to talk about The Four Soldiers with you, as it is far and away my favorite of the list, and by far the least favorite of any of my fellow jury members. It will be interesting to see if it makes the short list tomorrow; I suspect the judges will go with something much more applicable to current political climate such as the immigration theme with The Death of Murat Idrissi, and the feminist theme I found within The Years.

      As for what I will read? A friend of mine in a book discussion group I attend on Saturdays gave me a Penguin book of D. H. Lawrence novellas, which totally absorbed me last night. I am not very familiar with his work. I am also looking forward to Daphne DuMaurier Week at HeavenAli’s place on May 13th, and the 1965 Club (as you know) on April 22. Also, Dorian is hosting a read-along of Lucky Per for the month of May. But, actually, maybe I’ll just “close shop” for awhile. It frustrated me terribly to find Love In The New Millennium so difficult to understand, which in turn led me to wonder why I blog about translated lit at all. Sometimes I feel most unqualified.

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