The longlist for the Man Booker International Prize 2017 was announced last week and I’ve been looking into the books that made it on there. I have to admit that I’ve usually not paid a lot of attention to the Booker Prize (or all that many other prizes honestly). Little over a year ago I also wasn’t reading as much and as widely as I do now, so that probably has a lot to do with it as well. But since reading (and really loving) Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian” last year, which was the 2016 international winner, I made a mental note to make sure I properly check it out this year!
I probably won’t be reading everything on the longlist, but I’ve listed some books below that definitely have caught my attention and that I would love to read soon.
“Swallowing Mercury” by Wioletta Greg (Poland)
Wiola lives in a close-knit agricultural community. Wiola has a black cat called Blackie. Wiola’s father was a deserter but now he is a taxidermist. Wiola’s mother tells her that killing spiders brings on storms. Wiola must never enter the seamstress’s ‘secret’ room. Wiola collects matchbox labels. Wiola is a good Catholic girl brought up with fables and nurtured on superstition. Wiola lives in a Poland that is both very recent and lost in time.
“The Unseen” by Roy Jacobsen (Norway)
Ingrid Barrøy is born on an island that bears her name – a holdfast for a single family, their livestock, their crops, their hopes and dreams. Her father dreams of building a quay that will connect them to the mainland, but closer ties to the wider world come at a price. Her mother has her own dreams – more children, a smaller island, a different life – and there is one question Ingrid must never ask her. Island life is hard, a living scratched from the dirt or trawled from the sea, so when Ingrid comes of age, she is sent to the mainland to work for one of the wealthy families on the coast. But Norway too is waking up to a wider world, a modern world that is capricious and can be cruel. Tragedy strikes, and Ingrid must fight to protect the home she thought she had left behind.
“The Explosion Chronicles” by Yan Lianke (China)
With the Yi River on one side and the Balou Mountains on the other, the village of Explosion was founded more than a millennium ago by refugees fleeing a seismic volcanic eruption. But in the post-Mao era the name takes on a new significance as the community grows explosively from a small village to a vast metropolis. Behind this rapid expansion are members of the community’s three major families, including the four Kong brothers; Zhu Ying, the daughter of the former village chief; and Cheng Qing, who starts out as a secretary and goes on to become a powerful political and business figure. Linked together by a complex web of loyalty, betrayal, desire, and ambition, these figures are the driving force behind their hometown’s transformation into an urban superpower.
“Bricks and Mortar” by Clemens Meyer (Germany)
“Bricks and Mortar” is the story of the sex trade in a big city in the former GDR, from just before 1989 to the present day, charting the development of the industry from absolute prohibition to full legality in the twenty years following the reunification of Germany. The focus is on the rise and fall of one man from football hooligan to large-scale landlord and service-provider for prostitutes to, ultimately, a man persecuted by those he once trusted. But we also hear other voices: many different women who work in prostitution, their clients, small-time gangsters, an ex-jockey searching for his drug-addict daughter, a businessman from the West, a girl forced into child prostitution, a detective, a pirate radio presenter…
“Mirror, Shoulder, Signal” by Dorthe Nors (Denmark)
Sonja’s over forty, and she’s trying to move in the right direction. She’s learning to drive. She’s joined a meditation group. And she’s attempting to reconnect with her sister. But Sonja would rather eat cake than meditate. Her driving instructor won’t let her change gear. And her sister won’t return her calls. Sonja’s mind keeps wandering back to the dramatic landscapes of her childhood – the singing whooper swans, the endless sky, and getting lost barefoot in the rye fields – but how can she return to a place that she no longer recognizes? And how can she escape the alienating streets of Copenhagen?
“Fever Dream” by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina)
A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.
“Fish Have No Feet” by Jón Kalman Stefánsson (Iceland)
Keflavik: a town that has been called the darkest place in Iceland, surrounded by black lava fields, hemmed in by a sea that may not be fished. Its livelihood depends entirely on a U.S. military base, a conduit for American influences that shaped Icelandic culture and ethics from the 1950s to the dawning of the new millennium. It is to Keflavik that Ari – a writer and publisher – returns from Copenhagen at the behest of his dying father, two years after walking out on his wife and children. He is beset by memories of his youth, spent or misspent listening to Pink Floyd and the Beatles, fraternising with American servicemen – who are regarded by the locals with a mixture of admiration and contempt – and discovering girls. There is one girl in particular he could never forget – her fate has stayed with him all his life. Lost in grief and nostalgia, he is also caught up in the story of how his grandparents fell in love in Nordfjordur on the eastern coast, a fishing village a world away from modern Keflavik, at time when the old ways still held sway. Their tragic love affair unfolded against the backdrop of Iceland’s harsh nature and unforgiving elements.
(All summaries taken from Goodreads)
You can view the full list here! The shortlist will be announced April 20th.
Do you see any books in this post that you’d be interested in reading, or maybe you have some other suggestions/recommendations from the longlist for me?