International Booker Longlist 2023

The International Booker Prize is my aspirational longlist. I would like to read more diversely and more books in translation, and lists like this are a great place to find inspiration. Most years though, I’m lucky to acquire and read one of the books from the list.

This year it is A System So Magnificent it is Blinding (2019) by Amanda Svensson and translated by Nichola Smalley thanks to the excellent review by Lisa @ANZLitLovers last year.

I have come across Time Shelter and Boulder on various blogs (sorry I cannot remember where) but I’m not sure either of these are for me. The rest are unknown mysteries to be explored!

The thing is, not all of the books on this list will be ones that I want to read. Some books are just too dark and too grim for my tastes these day. It’s nice to have a jumping off point though.

Leïla Slimani the 2023 chair of judges said:

Each of the judges had different tastes and that is what we have tried to reflect in this list. It celebrates the variety and diversity of literary production today, the different ways in which the novel can be viewed. We wanted to give the reader the chance to discover this and to find something that will move or disturb them.

The list is also a celebration of the power of language and of authors who wanted to push formal enquiry as far as possible. We wanted to celebrate literary ambition, panache, originality and of course, through this, the talent of translators who have been able to convey all of this with great skill.

The 2023 International Booker Prize longlist:

(with abbreviated notes from the judges included)

  • The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier, translated by Daniel Levin Becker (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
    • “It is a very scary book, rooted in the traditions of horror….The writing is formidable. The slow rhythm of the sentences creates tension as much as the situation itself. Laurent Mauvignier also describes brilliantly an abandoned rural France where there is a sense of marginalisation and humiliation.”
  • Boulder by Eva Baltasar, translated by Julia Sanches (And Other Stories)
    • “An incisive story of queer love and motherhood that slices open the dilemmas of exchanging independence for intimacy.”
  • The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox (World Editions)
    • “She takes liberties, finding references in the Bible as well as in Caribbean myths. The book borrows from the tradition of magical realism and draws us into a world full of colour and life. This is a book that succeeds in mixing humour with poetry, and depth with lightness.”
  • Is Mother Dead by Vigdis Hjorth, translated by Charlotte Barslund (Verso)
    • “This novel provides a very fine and cruel understanding of family relationships: the violence of the mother-daughter dynamic…the impossibility of getting to know each other within the same family; family life as a prison of secrets and silence.”
  • Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv by Andrey Kurkov, translated by Reuben Woolley (MacLehose Press)
    • “The escapades of Andrey Kurkov’s loveable eccentrics provide a frame for an intriguing portrait of Lviv in the 2000s, a melancholy borderland city that finds itself recalling a troubled past as it sits on the cusp of an uncertain future.”
  • Ninth Building by Zou Jingzhi, translated by Jeremy Tiang (Open Letter)
    • “A kaleidoscopic and understated collection of interlocking tales of life in an apartment building under the Cultural Revolution.”
  • Pyre by Perumal Murugan, translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan (Pushkin)
    • “An intercaste couple elopes, setting in motion a story of terrifying foreboding…in particular, of the deep, deforming rot of caste hatred and violence.”
  • Standing Heavy by GauZ’, translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press)
    • “A sharp and satirical take on the legacies of French colonial history and life in Paris today….Standing Heavy carries us through the decades – from the youthful optimism of the decolonisation of the 1960s to the banal realities of daily shift work on the margins of contemporary consumer society.”
  • Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by Rosalind Harvey (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
    • “Two best friends share an aversion to “the human shackles” of motherhood, only to discover that life has other plans. With a twisty, enveloping plot, the novel poses some of the knottiest questions about freedom, disability, and dependence.”
  • A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding by Amanda Svensson, translated by Nichola Smalley (Scribe)
    • “When a set of adult triplets learns that one of them might have been switched in the hospital after their birth, each of them becomes convinced that they are the changeling.”
  • Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel (W&N)
    • “A wide-ranging, thought-provoking, macabre and humorous novel about nationality, identity and ageing, and about the healing and destructive power of memory.”
  • Whale by Cheon Myeong-Kwan, translated by Chi-Young Kim (Europa Editions)
    • “A carnivalesque fairy tale that celebrates independence and enterprise, a picaresque quest through Korea’s landscapes and history, Whale is a riot of a book.”
  • While We Were Dreaming by Clemens Meyer, translated by Katy Derbyshire (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
    • “As walls fall and political systems collapse, a group of youngsters in Leipzig are pitched into a helter-skelter world of partying, violence, drugs, crime and techno music.”

The two I’m most interested in from these brief comments are Whale and Ninth Building. What about you?

Nine of our fellow blogger friends participate in the International Booker SHADOW jury. Meredith @Dolce Bellezza has an introductory post for this event. Visit their respective blogs to judge for yourself.

The six books shortlisted for this year’s prize will be announced at 11.00am BST on Tuesday, 18 April. The winner will be announced in London on Tuesday, 23 May.

This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are our first storytellers.

13 thoughts on “International Booker Longlist 2023

  1. Thanks for the mention, Brona:)
    I borrowed Time Shelter from the library but I didn’t get far before I realised it was not for me.
    The truth is, based on the judge’s comments, most of these books are not for me. The only one that appeals is Ninth Building, but I’m waiting till I see a review from someone I trust.


  2. I’ve got Time Shelter from the library as well, but haven’t started it. I hope it’s not macabre! I read some other Gospodinovs a few years ago (on the blog) and liked them, so I have some hopes for this. They weren’t macabre…


  3. Time Shelter has been on my TBR since it was published here – I read his earlier book The Physics of Sorrow, and thought very highly of it. Kurkov is a writer whose books I’m always happy to pick up, and The Gospel According to the New World has caught my interest too. Longlists are treasure troves aren’t they?


  4. I’m reading Jimi Hendrix in Lviv at the moment and I’m quite enjoying it. Much funnier than I anticipated. I’ve also just bought Standing Heavy, mainly because it is translated by the wonderful Frank Wynne, whose translation work I always try to check out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is brilliant in theory but I’m afraid they don’t really appeal to me, either. I don’t think I’m getting staid but I don’t deal well with Horrible Things or, indeed, with magical realism … But I’m glad to read about the books, if not the books themselves!


    1. I’ve started reading some of Meredith’s reviews (& hope to get to some of the other shadow juror’s throughout the weekend). My opinion on some of the them is changing. I thought The Birthday Party sounded too much for me, but Meredith now has me thinking otherwise now…


  6. Sweet Brona, I know just what you mean about reading things that are too heavy or dark, and it seems that the long list for the IBP is always just that! I cannot abide books which mock my faith (hence the disparaging post on the Gospel According to the New World), but I loved The Birthday Party for its incredible tension. Also, it has given me much to think about, although if I say too much it discloses the plot. I was fascinated in The Time Shelter, and Is Mother Dead just may be our jury’s number one pick. We’ll see, it seems to be one of the most favored at this point.

    Thank you for reading my thoughts, for faithfully commenting and posting. I am afraid I am a really blogger slacker these days…😌


    1. Please never apologise about blogging habits. We all have times when it gets too much & we fall behind. The great thing about this community though, is that it just keeps on keeping on, whenever you do have the time to engage, someone is there ready to chat 🙂

      You may have tempted me with The Birthday Party. I’m intrigued to know what everyone is being careful not to disclose!

      Liked by 1 person

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