The Man Booker International Prize – the regular Man Booker’s bohemian older brother who spends most of his time gadding around the world, surfacing once every couple of years to say ‘oh yeah, here’s some authors you should really check out, because you probably haven’t heard of any of them’ before once again heading off in search of the perfect poncho – has revealed the finalists for its 2013 award.
In alphabetical order so as not to tip our hand (note: BookMachine has nothing with which to tip), the nominees are: U R Ananthamurthy (India), Aharon Appelfeld (Israel), Lydia Davis (USA), Intizar Husain (Pakistan), Yan Lianke (China), Marie NDiaye (France), Josip Novakovich (Canada), Marilynne Robinson (USA), Vladimir Sorokin (Russia) and Peter Stamm (Switzerland). As noted by the organisers themselves, the only two finalists this year who are particularly widely known internationally are the American Marilynne Robinson – author of Housekeeping, Gilead and Home – and the Israeli Holocaust survivor Aharon Appelfeld, whose work, written entirely in Hebrew rather than his native German (though a requirement for an author to be considered for the prize is their work’s having been translated into English), often deals either directly or allegorically with the wartime experiences of Jewish Europeans.
The general lack of ‘big’ names is something of a surprise from a prize whose four awards so far have been made to giants of world literature – Ismail Kadare, Chinua Achebe, Alice Munro and Philip Roth – and whose prior, as yet unawarded nominees include Gabriel García Márquez, Muriel Spark, John Updike, Günter Grass, Margaret Atwood, Stanislaw Lem, Doris Lessing, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje, Salman Rushdie, Don DeLillo, John Banville, James Kelman, Peter Carey, E. L. Doctorow, V. S. Naipaul, Joyce Carol Oates, John Le Carré and Philip Pullman.
As the award is given for an entire body of work, each author can only win once (also because it would seem gauche to wave around more than one £60,000 cheque at once). If the winning author’s primary written language is not English, a further prize of £15,000 is awarded to a translator of their work of the author’s choosing.