In what can fairly be called an upset, Samanta Schweblin’s novel Fever Dream has won the 2018 Tournament of Books. It defeated the popular, multi-award-winning Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, in a 10-7 vote. Fever Dream first beat Lincoln in the Bardo in the opening round and then went on to win against Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, Eugene Lim’s Dear Cyborg, and Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West on its way to defeating Lincoln in the Bardo once again.
Samanta Schweblin was born in Buenos Aires, and is the author of four books. Fever Dream was originally published in 2014 and was nominated for the International Man Booker Prize in 2017. It was translated into English in 2017 by Megan McDowell. Described as a ghost story and a horror novel, Fever Dream begins with a woman and a boy talking in a hospital and from there takes the reader on a strange, ghostly journey.
Fever Dream won against a strong line-up: in addition to the Saunders novel, which won the 2017 Booker Prize, contenders included novels by Jennifer Egan, Jesmyn Ward, Percival Everett, and Lidia Yuknavitch. The Tournament of Books has run every March since 2005. It pits 16-18 novels against each other, with judges presiding over each round and audience commentary incorporated into each decision.
Fever Dream now takes its place among esteemed winners from previous years, including Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, and Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad.