Meet the 6 Authors Shortlisted for Man International Booker Prize

As we put our hands together for the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019, let us look at the writers who have been shortlisted for the prestigious award. This is also a year that women across the globe can take pride in, as five of the six authors are exemplary women who have brought laurels to their own countries.

1. Celestial Bodies by Jokha al-Harthi

(Jokha al-Harthi and her book Celestial Bodies)

A PhD holder in Classical Arabic Poetry from Edinburgh, Jokha al-Harthi is a professor at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. Her novel, Celestial Bodies, has been shortlisted for this year’s Booker. Before this book, Jokha has authored two collections of short fiction, a children’s book, and three novels in Arabic.

Celestial Bodies is the first novel from the Gulf to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, Celestial Bodies is a coming-of-age novel that chronicles the struggles of three generations of an Omani family as they try to deal with the social change. The narrative focuses on three sisters - Mayya, who marries Abdallah while dealing with a heartbreak, Asma, who gets married as a sense of duty, and Khawla, who keeps rejecting proposals as she waits for her beloved, who has migrated to Canada. The women and their families witness the transition of Oman from a conservative, slave-owning society to a relatively modern but complex one. The book has been translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth.

2. The Years by Annie Ernaux

Annie Ernaux and her book.

Born in 1940, Annie Ernaux grew up in Normandy and was a professor at the Centre National d’Enseignement par Correspondance. Two of her books - A Man’s Place and A Woman’s Story, have become contemporary classics in France.

The Years is a memoir of Annie Ernaux, that recounts events from 1941 to 2006. The way in which the story is narrated is pretty interesting. It chronicles her working-class upbringing in Normandy to her years teaching French literature in a lycee. But Ernaux decides to do away with the traditional method of writing an autobiography. She tells her story in choral “we”, which sometimes shifts into the third person, so the author appears as “she”. She situates her own personal journey within the journey of her generation, thus making the book so much more unique. The book has been translated by Alison A. Strayer.

The Years was the winner of the 2019 French-American Foundation Translation Prize and 2016 Strega European Prize.

3. The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann

The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann.

A German poet and author, Marion Poschmann studied German, Philosophy and Slavic studies in Bonn and Berlin.

The Pine Islands is an unusual story of a lecturer, Gilbert Silvester, who leaves his wife after dreaming that she has been unfaithful. He is not even sure with whom, but there is one thing he is sure of - travelling to Japan and, inspired by Matsuo Bashō’s Narrow Road to the Deep North, seeing the pine islands of Matsushima. In his journey, Gilbert stumbles upon a man and prevents him from committing suicide. That stranger becomes his most unlikely companion and they form an unusual bond. The book was translated to English by Jen Callega.

4. Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

Olga Tokarczuk and Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead.

If Olga Tokarczuk bags the Man Booker this year, it will be a consecutive win for the author. Olga won last year too for her novel Flights. Though the Man Booker International Prize has been around since 2016, in the 50 years of Man Booker English, there have been just three repeat winners.

Olga Tokarczuk is a Polish writer and activist. Recognised as one of the most critically acclaimed writers of her generation, Olga is known for her mythical style of writing. Among her many accolades is the German-Polish International Bridge Prize, awarded to people who work for peace and democratic development among the people and nations of Europe.

You might definitely want to catch hold of Drive Your Plow because it is a murder mystery. A recluse from a small Polish town gets embroiled in the investigation into the deaths of members of a local hunting club. The book was deemed controversial in Poland as it touched upon Catholicism. The book has been translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.

5. The Shape Of The Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Juan and his book.

Juan Gabriel Vásquez is the only male author to make it to the list. The Columbian writer is known for his book, The Sound of Things Falling. He studied law from his native city Bogota. After graduating, he left for France, wherein he earned a doctorate in Latin-American literature.

The Shape of the Ruins delves deep into two politically-motivated assassinations - the murders of Rafael Uribe Uribe in 1914, the man who inspired García Márquez's General Buendia in One Hundred Years of Solitude, and of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, the man who might have been Colombia's J.F.K., shot in the presidential elections of 1948. Through these two landmark but unconnected events, Vásquez tries to show us that both contain seeds of violence that has plagued Columbia. The book is translated from Spanish by Anne McLean.

6. The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán

This Chilean writer has an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. She is also a PhD holder in Spanish and Latin American Studies from University College London.

The Remainder recounts the story of three friends from Santiago, Chile - Felipe, Iquela and Paloma. They decide to go on a road trip, but are unaware of the horrors they will have to face. It is not just a journey, they have to come face to face with generations of family pain and the legacy of Chile’s dictatorship.

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