Betwixt fiction and non-fiction

Some of them seemed deeply personal, almost like memoirs. What we concluded was that this is a fantastically vigorous and vital aspect of the way fiction is being written at the moment.


Image credits: The Indian Express

Vedika Mane

The International Booker Prize which celebrates the finest fiction from around the world, translated into English, announced the shortlist for the International Booker Prize 2021 on April 22, 2021. It is a compilation of fiction, history, rebellion, and memoir. The six books that made to the list are – The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell; When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West; In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale; The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken; All Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from French by Anna Moschovakis; and The War of the Poor by Eric Vuillard, translated from French by Mark Polizzotti.

The International Booker Prize is awarded annually to a work of fiction from any language which has been translated into English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

The shortlist was chosen from 125 books by a panel of judges which included – Lucy Hughes-Hallett, a British cultural historian and novelist; Neel Mukherjee, an Indian English-language based author and Man Booker-shortlisted novelist; Olivette Otele, Professor of the History of Slavery at Bristol University and a historian; Aida Edemariam, a journalist and writer; and George Szirtes, a translator, biographer, and poet. The shortlisted six books swayed the judges as they blurred the lines between fiction and non-fiction.

As quoted in the Guardian, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, who chairs the panel of judges said: “Certainly among the many books we read were what you might call good, straightforward, old-fashioned novels that just told the story from beginning to the end. But on the whole, the ones we found most exciting were doing something slightly different.”

“Fiction takes many, many different forms, and some of the books came close to being historical writing. Some of them were very essayistic. Some of them seemed deeply personal, almost like memoirs. What we concluded was that this is a fantastically vigorous and vital aspect of the way fiction is being written at the moment, that people are really pushing the boundaries,” she added.

Benjamin Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World is about scientific discoveries, ethics, and the distinction between genius and madness; Mariana Enriquez’s Dangers of Smoking in Bed encircles unruly teenagers, crooked witches, homeless ghosts, and hungry women; At Night all Blood is Black by David Diop talks about the tragedy of a young man’s mind hurtling towards madness; In the Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova tells the story of an ordinary Jewish family which manages to survive the myriad persecution and repressions of the last century; Olga Ravn’s The Employees questions what it means to be a human, emotionally and ontologically; and The War of the Poor by Eric Vuillard is a story of a brutal episode of history which deserves to be told.

The International Booker Prize 2020 was won by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld for her book The Discomfort of Evening translated by Michele Hutchison. Rijneveld was the first Dutch author to win the International Booker Prize and the third one to be nominated.

The winner of the literary award will be announced on June 2, 2021, with a prize money of 50,000 pounds (around Rs 51 lakhs), divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning book.

All stories that are reported, edited and published on this platform are original, produced by the students and faculty of National School of Journalism, sometimes contributed by guest faculty and speakers. If you would like to contribute, please email us at tannoy@nsoj.in NSoJ is a news organisation and a highly-selective Journalism school that trains India’s best journalistic talents to become ethical journalists who care deeply about truth, justice and democracy. If you are passionate about journalism and care about the core values of journalism as we do, please apply for a place in one of NSoJ’s programmes - Bachelor of Arts or PG Diploma in Journalism at www.nsoj.in.