LONDON – Polish Nobel literature laureate Olga Tokarczuk is among six finalists announced Thursday for the International Booker Prize for fiction in English translation.
Tokarczuk’s 18th-century epic “The Books of Jacob” is a favorite to win the award, whose 50,000-pound ($65,000) prize money is split between a book’s author and its translator. She and her translator Jennifer Croft previously won for “Flights” in 2018, the same year Tokarczuk was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
“Tomb of Sand” by India’s Geetanjali Shree is also on the shortlist. The life-affirming story of a convention-defying 80-year-old woman, it is the first Hindi-language book ever to be a finalist.
Translator Frank Wynne, who is chairing the judging panel, said that “despite Britain’s historic ties to the Indian subcontinent, there is an appalling scarcity of books published in (English) translation from any of the two dozen major Indian languages.”
The other finalists are crime tale “Elena Knows” by Claudia Piñeiro of Argentina; “Heaven,” the story of a bullied schoolboy by Japan’s Mieko Kawakami; the philosophical novel “A New Name: Septology VI-VII” by Norway’s Jon Fosse; and “Cursed Bunny,” a book of surreal short stories by South Korean writer Bora Chung.
Five of the six authors on the shortlist are women, as are three of the translators.
Wynne said all the shortlisted books were “marked in some ways by trauma, but there are many points of extraordinary optimism in them.”
“It is not so much that they are about trauma — they are very frequently about surviving trauma,” he said. “And I don’t think any life can be optimistic until you have survived some trauma.”
The winner will be announced on May 26.
The International Booker Prize is awarded every year to a book of fiction in any language that is translated into English and published in the U.K. or Ireland. It is run alongside the Booker Prize for English-language fiction.
Last year’s winner was “At Night All Blood is Black,” the story of a Senegalese soldier in World War I by French writer David Diop.