Moroccan Writer Mahi Binebine on IMPAC’s 10-book Shortlist

As I wrote over at The Guardian when the IMPAC’s 142-book longlist was revealed late last year, its global outreach was decidedly underwhelming:

Painting from the author's website:
Painting from the author’s website:

But its 10-book shortlist does have three books in translation — and, as the Dublin-based award proudly adds, one author from Ireland. The shortlist boasts one novel translated from the Portugeuse and two from the French, including Mahi Binebine’s Horses of God, translated by Lulu Norman (2013).

Last year, Binebine’s novel also made the Best Translated Book Award shortlist. It also won an English PEN award and made World Literature Today’s list of the “most important translations” of 2013.

Mahi Binebine was born in 1959 and grew up in a house in Marrakech’s Old Town. He studied in Paris and taught mathematics while also painting and writing. He was recognized first as a painter, then later as a novelist, and lived in New York in the late 1990s, when his paintings began to be acquired by the Guggenheim Museum.

But according to a profile in Qantarait’s not his life in Paris or NYC, but his childhood that “left a deep impression, and it practically forced his literary themes upon him. He tells of the characters who populated his childhood cosmos: the walking wounded, outcasts and failures – or ‘those left footsore by life,’ as he puts it.”

The titles on this year’s IMPAC shortlist were nominated by mostly North American and European public libraries: in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. A  judging panel made up of Valentine Cunningham, Christine Dwyer Hickey, Daniel Hahn, Kate Pullinger, and Jordi Soler, and chaired by Eugene R. Sullivan, will select the winner, which will be announced on June 17.

The IMPAC Award, an initiative of Dublin City Council, is worth €100,000.

An excerpt of Horses of God can be found at the publisher’s website: Tin House Books. There’s also a Q&A with the author about the novel.

The full list of 2015 IMPAC-shortlisted titles:

1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian) Published by Fourth Estate and by Alfred A. Knopf.

2. Horses of God by Mahi Binebine (Moroccan) Translated from French by Lulu Norman. Published by Tin House Books.

3. Harvest by Jim Crace (British) Published by Picador and by Alfred A. Knopf.

4. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Australian) Published by Vintage Australia.

5. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Australian) First Novel. Published by Little, Brown & Company and by Picador Australia.

6. K by Bernardo Kucinski (Brazilian) Translated from Portuguese by Sue Branford. Published by Latin American Bureau.

7. Brief Loves That Live Forever by Andreï Makine (French, Russian-born) Translated from French by Geoffrey Strachan. Published by MacLehose Press.

8. TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (Irish) Published by Bloomsbury Publishing, Random House Inc. and HarperCollins Canada.

9. Someone by Alice McDermott (American) Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

10. Sparta by Roxana Robinson (American) Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.