The Birdcage Archives

Sunday 31 March 2024

– XXVI –

I’m not spoilt for choice. I am Canadian, which means I live in a real-life monopoly, and as a matter of fact, I do not get to pass GO, or collect $200.00, or have any stake in Marvin Gardens.

Monday 11 March 2024

The International Booker Prize Longlist, 2024

Hello Gentle Reader,

The International Booker Prize Shortlist for 2024 has released this year’s longlist of thirteen titles each competing for a coveted spot on the shortlist (which will be announced in April). Of this year’s longlist, South American writers dominate, with a quarter of the titles heralding from writers from Peru, Argentia, Brazil and Venezuela, which showcases a thriving literary scene thriving in the absence of the previous Latin Boom giants of old, and showcasing the talent of a new generation.

Without waiting further, the following are the thirteen shortlisted writers and their works (in no particular order):

Jenny Erpenbeck – Germany – “Kairos,”
Rodrigo Blanco Calderón – Venezuela – “Simpatía,”
Jente Posthuma – The Netherlands – “What I’d Rather Not Think About,”
Domenico Starnone – Italy – “The House on Via Gemito,”
Gabriela Wiener – Peru – “Undiscovered,”
Hwang Sok-yong – (South) Korea – “Mater 2-10,”
Selva Almada – Argentina – “Not a River,”
Andrey Kurkov – Ukraine – “The Silver Bone,”
Veronica Raimo – Italy – “Lost on Me,”
Itamar Vieira Junio – Brazil – “Crooked Plow,”
Ismail Kadare – Albania – “A Dictator Calls,”
Urszula Honek – Poland – “White Nights,”
Ia Genberg – Sweden – “The Details,”

Of the longlisted writers, Ismail Kadare is the only writer to have won the International Booker Prize in its previous format, when the prize was awarded biennially and sought to recognize an author’s entire literary output and career. if Kadare were to take the prize again with his novel “A Dictator Calls,” he will be the first writer to receive the prize first (in both formats). In addition to Ismail Kadare, the German writer, Jenny Erpenbeck is another internationally applauded and recognizable stalwart. “Kairos,” is described as a bleak portrait of two individuals locked with a state of intense desire and further cruelty amidst the collapsing and changing world as the GDR crumbles around them, proving that Jenny Erpenbeck is a master of capturing the balance between seismic historical shifts, and intimate human dramas.

This is not the first time Hwang Sok-yong has been nominated for the award either, having been longlisted for the prize in 2019 with the novel “At Dusk,” which recounts the memoirs of an otherwise successfully architectural director, reflect on his own participation in the erasure and rapid development of Korean society, away from its poverty and in the process the erasure of his own roots. Sok-yong traces contemporary Korean society through three generations of a railway family in “Mater 2-10,” – from the Japanese colonialization; through liberation, and its rapid development into the 21st century, the hard scrabble life of ordinary Koreans and their drive to be free of oppression, as well as a strangely lyrical folktale rising to a crescendo depicting the sacrifices and indignities endured by the Korean populace. A showcase of what makes Hwang Sok-yong one of the most important (South) Korean writers of his generation.

Andrey Kurkov finds himself longlisted with his novel “The Silver Bone,” is a novel praised by critics and readers alike, as it bubbles with Kurkov’s sense of absurdism and unapologetic use of the uncanny, made all that more glorious for his historical detail, which explores the complexities of Eastern Europe, and despite being set in 1919 draws parallel with the current struggles of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Jente Posthuma’s novel “What I’d Rather Not Think About,” is one of the novels to watch closely, a beautiful narrative of bitter insight that waltz between melancholy and humour, of the special relationship between twins, with emphasis on the ache of loss. The Brazilian writer Itamar Vieira Junio “Crooked Plow,” has been called one of the most important Brazilian novels of this century, a combination of both magical and social realism, recounts the lost voices of the black diaspora and their stories after the abolition of slavery in Brazil, revealing both the racial and economic inequalities of Brazil in powerful prose.

Veronica Raimo’s “Lost on Me,” is a firecracker coming of age novel, exploring the germination of a writer, whose inventions is her only way in which to emancipate herself from her family’s neurosis, and seek independence and life outside of the comforts and constraints of her own homelife. Witty, daring, and highly nostalgic capturing the palpations of Rome in the 80’s through to the early 21st century. All the while, Ia Genberg’s novel “The Details,” is a fever dream of delirium, recounting the shards and details, those formulative relationships which define one’s portrait of their life.

It’s an interesting longlist which blends both defined and established international literary talents with emerging and new voices and narratives. It’ll be a unique shortlist in turn, at which point the judges have the unenviable task of reducing the titles to a concentrated form.

Thank you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
M. Mary

For Further Reading:

The Guardian: Latin American fiction ‘booms’ again on International Booker prize longlist