In Translation

2021 International Booker Prize Shortlist Announced

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Pierce Alquist

Senior Contributor

Pierce Alquist is a transplanted New Yorker living and working in the publishing scene in Boston. Don’t worry if she fooled you, the red hair is misleading. She’s a literature in translation devotee and reviewer and lover of small, independent presses. A voracious traveler and foodie, you can find her in her kitchen making borscht or covered in red pepper paste as she perfects her kimchi recipe.

Honoring the finest works of translated fiction from around the world, the International Booker Prize has announced its 2021 shortlist. The prize is awarded every year to a single book translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland. It aims to encourage more publishing and reading of international fiction from all over the world and to promote and recognize the work of translators. The £50,000 prize is split between the winning author and translator. The winner will be announced June 2 in a virtual ceremony. This year the judges considered 125 books before narrowing it down to these 5.

Two-thirds of this year’s shortlisted authors are new to English language readers and have been widely praised for their originality, with the judges writing that the shortlisted books are “revolutionary in form, in content and in point of view.” In a comment to The Guardian, chair of the judges, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, notes that the judges were interested in books that blurred the lines between fiction and nonfiction.

“Fiction takes many, many different forms, and some of the books came close to being historical writing. Some of them were very essayistic. Some of them seemed deeply personal, almost like memoirs. What we concluded was that this is a fantastically vigorous and vital aspect of the way fiction is being written at the moment, that people are really pushing the boundaries.”

2021 International Booker Prize Shortlist

At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from French by Anna Mocschovakis

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell

The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken

In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale

The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard, translated from French by Mark Polizzotti

The shortlist was selected by a panel of five judges: cultural historian and novelist Lucy Hughes-Hallett; journalist and writer Aida Edemariam; Man Booker shortlisted novelist Neel Mukherjee; Professor of the History of Slavery Olivette Otele; and poet, translator, and biographer George Szirtes.

And if you’re looking for even more great recommendations for international literature, check out this year’s complete longlist.