Two Arabic Titles on Man Booker International Longlist

Two of the thirteen books chosen for the 2019 Man Booker International longlist are translations from Arabic, on a longlist dominated by smaller and independent publishers:

Jonathan Wright reappears on the Man Booker International longlist, this time with his translation of Mazen Maarouf’s darkly funny and surreal short stories in Jokes for the Gunmen. The stories here — to be discussed in more detail in the forthcoming ArabLit Quarterly — are much like the Palestinian-Icelandic author’s poems, but stretched into landscapes of war, disease, and grief turned inside-out.

The under-appreciated Marilyn Booth makes a first appearance on the Man Booker International longlist (in its current form), with her translation of Jokha Alharthi‘s Celestial Bodies, which was also winner of the 2010 Best Omani Novel Award. The book is set in Oman’s al-Awafi village and interleaves the lives of a family, focusing on three sisters: Mayya, Asma, and Khawla, and their different relationships to love. It also tells the stories of the enslaved people who were bound to the family, and how the relationships changed and how they didn’t. It’s vibrantly translated by Booth, who also appeared on the old Man Booker International longlist as the translator accompanying finalist Hoda Barakat.

The longlist was selected by a panel of five judges, chaired by historian Bettany Hughes. Also on the panel are translator Maureen Freely, philosopher Professor Angie Hobbs, acclaimed novelist and twitterist Elnathan John, and essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra.

In the official statement, Hughes said: “This was a year when writers plundered the archive, personal and political. That drive is represented in our longlist, but so too are surreal Chinese train journeys, absurdist approaches to war and suicide, and the traumas of spirit and flesh. We’re thrilled to share 13 books which enrich our idea of what fiction can do.”

The shortlist is set to appear April 9 and the winner on May 21. The winning author and translator split a £50,000 prize, each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000. This year, judges considered 108 books.

The full list:

(Original Language –Country/territory)
Translator Title Publisher, Imprint
Jokha Alharthi
(Arabic – Oman)
Marilyn Booth Celestial Bodies Sandstone Press Ltd
Can Xue
(Chinese – China)
Annelise Finegan Wasmoen Love In The New Millennium Yale University Press
Annie Ernaux
(French – France)
Alison L. Strayer The Years Fitzcarraldo Editions
Hwang Sok-yong
(Korean – South Korea)
Sora Kim-Russell At Dusk Scribe, UK
Mazen Maarouf
(Arabic – Iceland and Palestine)
Jonathan Wright Jokes For The Gunmen Granta, Portobello Books
Hubert Mingarelli
(French – France)
Sam Taylor Four Soldiers Granta, Portobello Books
Marion Poschmann
(German – Germany)
Jen Calleja The Pine Islands Profile Books, Serpent’s Tail
Samanta Schweblin
(Spanish – Argentina and Italy)
Megan McDowell Mouthful Of Birds Oneworld
Sara Stridsberg
(Swedish – Sweden)
Deborah Bragan-Turner The Faculty Of Dreams Quercus, MacLehose Press
Olga Tokarczuk
(Polish – Poland)
Antonia Lloyd-Jones Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead Fitzcarraldo Editions
Juan Gabriel Vásquez
(Spanish – Colombia)
Anne McLean The Shape Of The Ruins Quercus, MacLehose Press
Tommy Wieringa
(Dutch – The Netherlands)
Sam Garrett The Death Of Murat Idrissi Scribe, UK
Alia Trabucco Zerán
(Spanish – Chile and Italy)
Sophie Hughes The Remainder And Other Stories

Also read:

Portion of Jam, by Maarouf, tr. Wright

An excerpt from Celestial Bodies, by Alharthi, tr. Booth