International Booker Prize longlist unveils South American boom, diverse voices

The International Booker Prize, celebrating the best translated fiction, has announced its 2024 longlist, brimming with stories from around the globe, per

This year’s selection marks a resurgence of Latin American literature, with a quarter of the nominations hailing from Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Venezuela. Organisers are calling this a potential “second boom” for the region’s literary scene.

Among the South American contenders are Not a River by Argentinian writer Selva Almada, translated by Annie McDermott, and Simpatía by Venezuelan author Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, translated by a collaborative effort of Noel Hernández González and Daniel Hahn. Joining them are Crooked Plow by Brazilian writer Itamar Vieira Junior (translated by Johnny Lorenz) and Undiscovered by Peruvian writer Gabriela Wiener (translated by Julia Sanches).

Independent publishers continue to dominate the longlist, with nine making the cut. Notably, Seven Stories Press UK and MTO Press appear for the first time. The 13 longlisted works are a tapestry of languages, translated from Albanian, Dutch, German, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

A familiar name graces the list: inaugural winner of the prize in 2005, Ismail Kadare, returns with A Dictator Calls, translated by John Hodgson from Albanian. Nine authors and nine translators are making their longlist debut this year.

Scribe Publications secures two nominations: Mater 2-10 by Hwang Sok-yong (translated by Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae) and What I’d Rather Not Think About by Jente Posthuma (translated by Sarah Timmer Harvey).

Eastern Europe is represented by The Silver Bone: The Kyiv Mysteries by Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov (translated by Boris Dralyuk) and Kairos by German author Jenny Erpenbeck (translated by Michael Hofmann). Wildfire Books presents The Details by Ia Genberg (translated by Kira Josefsson) from Sweden, while Poland finds its voice in White Nights by Urszula Honek (translated by Kate Webster).

Completing the list are Italian works Lost on Me by Veronica Raimo (translated by Leah Janeczko) and The House on Via Gemito by Domenico Starnone (translated by Oonagh Stransky).

The longlist, chosen from a record-breaking 149 submissions by the 2024 judging panel, reflects a global search for exceptional translated fiction. The panel, chaired by broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel, includes poet Natalie Diaz, novelist Romesh Gunesekera, visual artist William Kentridge, and writer, editor, and translator Aaron Robertson.

Wachtel highlighted the diverse range of stories: “From a factory chimney protest in South Korea to a life-changing fishing trip in Argentina, the longlist offers stunning glimpses into different times and places. These voices bring fresh perspectives, using captivating and lyrical language to explore themes of political power, personal relationships, and more.”

She emphasised the crucial role of translation: “Fiction allows us to inhabit other lives and experiences. Translators become architects, expanding these worlds and deepening our understanding of different cultures. They bridge divides and foster a global community of readers.”

The shortlist of six books will be announced on April 9th, with the winner revealed at a ceremony on May 21st. The £50,000 prize is equally split between the author and translator, acknowledging the collaborative nature of translated works.

This year’s longlist signifies a vibrant international literary scene, with a strong showing from South America and a focus on diverse voices and experiences. As Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the prize, remarked, the list “highlights the growing pool of talented South American writers, potentially marking a second golden age for Latin American fiction.”

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