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The Man Booker International Prize 2016 Shortlist Announced

The Man Booker International Prize 2016 Shortlist Announced



  • Six shortlisted books in six languages 

  • Four countries appear on the list for the first time

  • The list includes one previous finalist for the Man Booker International Prize, two Independent Foreign Fiction Prize winners and one Nobel Prize winner

  • Judges praise the diversity of the list that takes readers around the globe and to the frontier of fiction 


The Man Booker International Prize has today, 14 April, revealed the shortlist of six books in contention for the 2016 Prize, celebrating the finest in global fiction. Each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000, while the £50,000 prize will be divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning entry.

The 2016 Man Booker International Shortlist 

Title (imprint) Author (nationality) Translator

A General Theory of Oblivion (Harvill Secker), José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola), Daniel Hahn (UK)

The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions), Elena Ferrante (Italy), Ann Goldstein (USA)

The Vegetarian (Portobello Books), Han Kang (South Korea), Deborah Smith (UK)

A Strangeness in My Mind (Faber & Faber), Orhan Pamuk (Turkey), Ekin Oklap (Turkey)

A Whole Life (Picador), Robert Seethaler (Austria), Charlotte Collins (UK)

The Four Books (Chatto & Windus), Yan Lianke  (China), Carlos Rojas (USA)

Settings range from war-torn Angola to Naples terrorised by the Camorra, from the mountains of Austria to the growing sprawl of Istanbul and from metamorphosis in South Korea to allegorical transformation during the Great Famine in China.

Five of the authors have been nominated for the first time (Yan appeared on the list of finalists in 2013). The nominees include two winners of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize: Agualusa (2007) and Pamuk (1990) who also won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. It is the first appearance on a Man Booker International Prize list for writers from Angola, Austria, South Korea and Turkey. 

The translators are predominantly female and of UK or US descent. The youngest are Turkish-born Londoner Ekin Oklap (27) and Deborah Smith (28) who only started learning Korean at the age of 21.  

Three independent publishers, Europa Editions, Faber & Faber and Portobello Books, have made it to the shortlist. Penguin Random House has two novels through the imprints Chatto & Windus and Harvill Secker, while Pan Macmillan’s imprint Picador has the final place on the list.

Boyd Tonkin, chair of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize judging panel, comments: 

‘This exhilarating shortlist will take readers both around the globe and to every frontier of fiction. In first-class translations that showcase that unique and precious art, these six books tell unforgettable stories from China and Angola, Austria and Turkey, Italy and South Korea. In setting, they range from a Mao-era re-education camp and a remote Alpine valley to the modern tumult and transformation of cities such as Naples and Istanbul. In form, the titles stretch from a delicate mosaic of linked lives in post-colonial Africa to a mesmerising fable of domestic abuse and revolt in booming east Asia. Our selection shows that the finest books in translation extend the boundaries not just of our world - but of the art of fiction itself. We hope that readers everywhere will share our pleasure and excitement in this shortlist.’

More comments on each book can be found in ‘Book synopses and biographies’ in the lower part of this release. 

Emmanuel Roman, CEO of Man Group, comments:

‘We are very proud to sponsor the newly evolved Man Booker International Prize, which recognises the hard work and creativity of both authors and translators, and celebrates talent from all over the world. The prize underscores Man Group's charitable focus on literacy and education, as well as our commitment to excellence and entrepreneurship in our increasingly diverse and globalised business. Together with the wider charitable activities of the Booker Prize Foundation, the prize plays a very important role in promoting literary excellence on a global scale that we are honoured to support. Many congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and translators.’

The list was selected from 155 books by a panel of five judges consisting of: critic and editor Boyd Tonkin; anthropologist and novelist Tahmima Anam; academic David Bellos, Professor of French and Comparative Literature and Director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University; editor and academic Daniel Medin, who holds a comparative literature professorship at the American University of Paris (AUP); and prize-winning British poet and author Ruth Padel.


The 2016 winner announcement 

The winner of the 2016 Prize will be announced on 16 May at a formal dinner at the V & A, with the £50,000 prize being divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning entry.

Leading up to the winner announcement, there will be a number of public events featuring some of the authors and translators: 

Shakespeare and Company, Paris

Foyles, London 

  • 15 May Man Booker International Prize event chaired by Razia Iqbal 

British Library, London 

For the first time, the Man Booker International Prize will be on the basis of a single book, after having joined forces with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize last year. The prize is sponsored by Man Group, one of the world’s largest independent alternative investment managers, which also sponsors the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Both prizes strive to recognise and reward the finest in contemporary literature.  |  @ManBookerPrize  |  #MBI2016 | #FinestFiction

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Notes to Editors:

The Administrator of the Man Booker International Prize is Fiammetta Rocco – Books and Arts Editor of The Economist. The Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation is Gaby Wood, who succeeded Ion Trewin after his death in April 2015

Books under consideration have been published in English in translation by UK publishers between 1 January 2015 and 30 April 2016. This will become an annual process, with the eligible period of publication in subsequent years being from 1 May until 30 April the following year

There is no restriction on the number of submissions per publisher but this will be kept under review and may change in future years

Four Colman Getty handles PR and event management for the prize and provides all events and administrative back-up

The Man Booker International Prize website includes detailed information about all aspects of the prize and runs regular news bulletins:

The Booker Prize Foundation Advisory Committee, which advises on any changes to the rules and on the selection of the judges, represents all aspects of the book world. Its members are:  Richard Cable – publisher, Random House;  Mark Chilton – Company Secretary and General Counsel of Booker Group plc; Jonty Claypole – Head of Arts, BBC; James Daunt – Managing Director of Waterstones; Jonathan Douglas – Director of the National Literacy Trust; Maggie Fergusson – writer and Secretary of the Royal Society of Literature; Adam Freudenheim –  Publisher, Pushkin Press;  Derek Johns – Author & Literary Agent; Peter Kemp – Chief Fiction Reviewer, The Sunday Times; Nigel Newton – publisher, Bloomsbury; Fiammetta Rocco – Books and Arts Editor, The Economist (Man Booker International Prize Administrator); Michal Shavit - publishing director, Jonathan Cape; Rosanna Konarzewski  – Global Head of Communications and Marketing, Man Group; Eve Smith – Secretary, the Booker Prize Foundation; Robert Topping – Topping & Company Booksellers

The Booker Prize Foundation is a registered charity (no 1090049) established in 2002, since when it has been responsible for the award of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and for the Man Booker International Prize since its inauguration in 2005. The trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation are: Baroness Kennedy QC – Chair, former Chair of the British Council and Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford; Lord Baker of Dorking CH; Bidisha – writer, critic and broadcaster; Victoria Glendinning CBE – biographer; James Naughtie – broadcaster; Christopher Pearce – former Finance Director of Rentokil plc; Professor Louise Richardson – Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford; Ben Okri – writer and former Man Booker Prize winner. Jonathan Taylor CBE is President of the Foundation and Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, Sir Ronald Harwood and Baroness Neuberger are Vice Presidents 

Man Group has sponsored the Man Booker Prize since 2002. A leading alternative investment management firm founded in 1783, Man Group was recognised as a partner who mirrored the quality, integrity and longevity of the Booker Prize. The prize underscores Man Group's charitable focus on literacy and education as well as the firm’s commitment to excellence and entrepreneurship. Together with the wider charitable activities of the Booker Prize Foundation, the prize plays a very important role in promoting literary excellence on a global scale that the firm is honoured to support

Man Group is one of the world’s largest independent alternative investment managers, and a leader in liquid investment strategies. Across its four investment managers (Man AHL, Man FRM, Man GLG and Man Numeric), Man Group has diverse hedge fund strategies and long only products spanning equity, credit, managed futures, convertibles, emerging markets and multi-manager solutions. At 31 December 2015, Man Group’s funds under management were $78.7 billion. The original business was founded in 1783. Today, Man Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange under the ticker EMG.L and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. Man Group supports many awards, charities and initiatives around the world, including sponsorship of the Man Booker literary prizes. Further information can be found at

Booker is the UK's leading food wholesaler with over 170 branches nationwide.  It serves over 350,000 independent businesses

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize joined forces with the Man Booker International Prize in 2015. Last year’s winner of the IFFP was The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from German by Susan Bernofsy and published by Portobello Books. The IFFP was launched in 1990 and ran until 1995. The Prize was revived with the support of Arts Council England in 2001 and was managed by reading charity Book Trust until 2005. The £10,000 prize money and associated costs were supported using public funding by Arts Council England, and the Prize was also supported by The Independent and Champagne Taittinger 



The Shortlist for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize:

Book synopses and biographies

A General Theory of Oblivion 

José Eduardo Agualusa

Translated by Daniel Hahn

Published by Harvill Secker

A General Theory of Oblivion is a wild patchwork of a novel that tells the story of Angola through Ludo, a woman who bricks herself into her apartment on the eve of Angolan independence. For the next 30 years she lives off vegetables and pigeons, and burns her furniture to stay warm. But the outside world seeps in, through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of a man fleeing his pursuers and a note attached to a bird’s foot. Until one day she meets Sabalu, a young boy from the street who climbs up to her terrace. With the author’s trademark playfulness, humour and warmth, A General Theory of Oblivion is a dazzling novel of human drama and the thrills, hopes and dangers of radical change.

The judges comment: A General Theory of Oblivion is the story of the Angolan revolution told through the eyes of a woman who bricks herself into her apartment for 28 years. As civil war and revolution rage beyond her doorstep, Ludo concerns herself with trapping pigeons and finding ways to survive without leaving her apartment. Change finally comes to Ludo in the form of a young boy who breaks through her barricade and brings her back into the world. A unique portrait of a society in flux, it is nonetheless full of evocative details and everyday humour.”

José Eduardo Agualusa (55) was born in Huambo, Angola, in 1960, and is one of the leading literary voices in Angola and the Portuguese-speaking world. His novel Creole was awarded the Portuguese Grand Prize for Literature, and The Book of Chameleons won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2007. Agualusa lives between Portugal, Angola and Brazil.

Daniel Hahn (42) is a writer, editor and translator, with over 30 books to his name. His translations from Portuguese, Spanish and French include fiction from Europe, Africa and the Americas, and non-fiction by writers ranging from Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago to Brazilian footballer Pelé. A former chair of the Translators Association, he is now national programme director of the British Centre for Literary Translation. He is currently writing the new Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature.


The Story of the Lost Child

Elena Ferrante

Translated by Ann Goldstein

Published by Europa Editions UK

The fourth and final instalment of the Neapolitan Novels series, The Story of the Lost Child is the dazzling saga of the friendship between two women: brilliant, bookish Elena and fiery, uncontainable Lila. Both women fought to escape the neighbourhood in which they grew up: a prison of conformity, violence, and inviolable taboos. Having moved to Florence, started a family, and published several well-received books, Elena returns to be with the man she has always loved. Lila, on the other hand, never succeeded in freeing herself from Naples. Her entrepreneurial success draws her into closer proximity to the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect her neighbourhood; she becomes the unacknowledged leader of the world she has always rejected. Against the backdrop of a Naples that is as seductive as it is perilous and a world undergoing epochal change, this story of a lifelong friendship is told with unmatched honesty.

The judges comment: The Story of the Lost Child is a dense, compelling and artfully structured novel of love and adultery in the murkily complicated world of Naples of 40 years ago. Every paragraph sparkles with intelligence, every chapter brings a surprise: a veritable feast.”

Elena Ferrante was born in Naples. This is all we know about her. True to her belief that “books, once they are written, have no need of their authors”, Ferrante has stayed resolutely out of public view. She is the author of The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter. Her Neapolitan novels include My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. She is also the author of Fragments, a collection of writings on reading, writing and absence, to be published in 2016.

Ann Goldstein (66) is an editor at The New Yorker. She has translated works by, among others, Elena Ferrante, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Alessandro Baricco, and Alessandro Piperno. She is the editor of the Complete Works of Primo Levi in English. She has been awarded several prizes including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN Renato Poggioli Prize, an award from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


The Vegetarian

Han Kang

Translated by Deborah Smith

Published by Portobello Books

Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more ‘plant-like’ existence, commits a shocking act of subversion and becomes a vegetarian. As her rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, Yeong-hye spirals further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming – impossibly, ecstatically – a tree. Fraught, disturbing, and beautiful, The Vegetarian is a novel about modern South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another. 

The judges comment: “The story of a Korean woman who awakens from uneasy dreams to find herself transformed into an enigma without a key. Evocative and suggestive, The Vegetarian startles for the depths of its strangeness.”

Han Kang (45) was born in Gwangju, South Korea, and moved to Seoul at the age of ten. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. Her writing has won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today's Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. The Vegetarian, her first novel to be translated into English, was published by Portobello Books in 2015. Human Acts was published by Portobello books in 2016. She currently teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.

Deborah Smith (28) was monolingual until the age of 21. Deciding to become a translator upon finishing her degree in English Literature, with no previous experience in this field, she chose to pursue Korean due to a lack of English-Korean translators and moved to Korea to realise this dream. Her translations from Korean include Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and Human Acts, and Bae Suah’s The Essayist’s Desk and The Low Hills of Seoul. She recently founded Tilted Axis Press, a not-for-profit publishing house focusing on translations from Asia and Africa. She tweets as @londonkoreanist


A Strangeness in my Mind

Orhan Pamuk

Translated by Ekin Oklap

Published by Faber & Faber

A Strangeness in My Mind is the story of boza seller Mevlut, the woman to whom he wrote a series of passionate love letters over three years and their life in Istanbul. In the four decades between 1969 and 2012, Mevlut works a number of different jobs on the streets of Istanbul, from selling yoghurt and cooked rice to guarding a car park. He observes many different kinds of people thronging the streets, he watches most of the city get demolished and re-built, and he sees migrants from Anatolia making a fortune; at the same time, he witnesses all of the transformative moments, political clashes, and military coups that shape the country. He always wonders what it is that separates him from everyone else - the source of that strangeness in his mind. But he never stops selling boza during winter evenings and trying to understand who his beloved really is. What matters more in love: what we wish for, or what our fate has in store? Do our choices dictate whether we will be happy or not, or are these things determined by forces beyond our control? A Strangeness In My Mind explores these questions while portraying the tensions between urban life and family life, and the fury and helplessness of women inside their homes.

The judges comment: “A 600-page tale of Istanbul told through a chorus of voices but focussing on the life of a touching and generous-hearted street vendor. Mevlut sells yoghurt and boza, the national drink. Is boza alcoholic or not? The question resonates with Turkey’s current politics and policies, but the story concentrates on the particular intricacies of back alleys, relationships and cuisine of an ancient and gorgeously beguiling city.”

Orhan Pamuk (63) is the author of many celebrated books, including The White Castle (first winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize), Black Book, Istanbul and Snow. In 2003, he won the International IMPAC Award for My Name is Red, and in 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. His most recent novel, The Museum of Innocence, was an international bestseller, praised in the Guardian as 'an enthralling, immensely enjoyable piece of storytelling.' Orhan Pamuk’s work has been translated into over 60 languages. In spring 2012, his Museum of Innocence opened in Istanbul, where he lives.

Ekin Oklap (27) was born in Izmir, Turkey, and grew up in Italy. She is a graduate of the University of Cambridge and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. In 2012, she translated Orhan Pamuk's The Innocence of Objects. She lives in London, where she works as a literary agent.


A Whole Life

Robert Seethaler

Translated by Charlotte Collins

Published by Pan Macmillan, Picador

Andreas lives his whole life in the Austrian Alps, where he arrives as a young boy taken in by a farming family. He is a man of very few words and so, when he falls in love with Marie, he doesn't ask for her hand in marriage but instead has some of his friends light her name at dusk across the mountain. When Marie dies in an avalanche, pregnant with their first child, Andreas's heart is broken. He leaves his valley just once more, to fight in WWII - where he is taken prisoner in the Caucasus - and returns to find that modernity has reached his remote haven. Like John Williams' Stoner or Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, A Whole Life is a tender book about finding dignity and beauty in solitude. It looks at the moments, big and small, that make us what we are.

The judges comment: A Whole Life is a simple story of a simple man born as little more than a serf in an Alpine valley. Old Eggers becomes a labourer building the first ski-lifts and ends up as a tourist guide in mountains transformed by modern life.  This superbly crafted tale of physical and emotional pain born with patience and resignation is a literary gem to set alongside Flaubert’s A Simple Heart.”

Robert Seethaler (49) is an Austrian living in Berlin and is the author of four previous novels. He also works as an actor, most recently in Paulo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza.

Charlotte Collins (49) is a freelance journalist and literary translator. She has co-edited around 100 bilingual novels for young adults, published by Langenscheidt Verlag. She has also written two other bilingual novels, three radio plays, and a successful audio course for German students of English.


The Four Books

Yan Lianke

Translated by Carlos Rojas

Published by Vintage, Chatto & Windus

In the 99th district of a sprawling labour camp, the Author, Musician, Scholar, Theologian and Technician are undergoing Re-education, to restore their revolutionary zeal and credentials. In charge of this process is the Child, who delights in draconian rules, monitoring behaviour and confiscating treasured books. The inmates – and hundreds of intellectuals just like them - must meet challenges set by the higher-ups: to grow an ever-spiralling amount of wheat, and to smelt vast quantities of steel. The stakes are high: they can win their freedom if they are awarded enough of the small red blossoms. Medium red blossoms and pentagonal stars are given out for effort, obedience, and informing on others. But when bad weather arrives, followed by the ‘three bitter years’ of The Great Famine, the intellectuals are abandoned by the regime and left on their own to survive. Divided into four narratives, echoing the texts of Confucianism and the four Gospels of the New Testament, The Four Books tells the story of one of China’s most controversial periods. It shows us the power of camaraderie, love and faith against oppression and the darkest odds. 

The judges comment: “One of China’s boldest living writers explores the trauma of Mao’s Great Famine in a novel that braids four narratives, and four voices, into an extraordinary tapestry of life, and death, in a re-education camp. Episodes of tenderness, mystery, love, art and even humour enrich an imaginative and inventive story of power, persecution and survival in the worst of times.”

Yan Lianke (57) was born in 1958 in Henan Province, China. He is the author of numerous novels and short-story collections, including Serve the People!, Dream of Ding Village and Lenin's Kisses. The winner of multiple literary awards in China, including the Lao She, Lu Xun and Hua Zhong World Chinese Literature Prize, he was also awarded the Franz Kafka Prize in 2014, and has been previously shortlisted for both the Man Booker International Prize and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. He currently lives and writes in Beijing.

Carlos Rojas (45) is the author of The Naked Gaze: Reflections on Chinese Modernity, The Great Wall: A Cultural History, and Homesickness: Culture, Contagions, and National Reform in Modern China, which looks at Chinese discourses of corporeality and infection over the long 20th century. He is the co-editor, with David Der-wei Wang, of Writing Taiwan: A New Literary History, with Eileen Cheng-yin Chow, of both Rethinking Chinese Popular Culture: Cannibalizations of the Canon and the The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Cinemas, and, with Andrea Bachner, of The Oxford Handbook of Modern Chinese Literatures. He also co-translated, again with Eileen Chow, Yu Hua’s two-volume novel Brothers, and is the translator of Yan Lianke’s novels Lenin's Kisses and The Four Books. He teaches on a variety of topics ranging from prostitutes and vampires to cities, migration, and disease.


Four Colman Getty

April 2016