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Eight-paragraph novel in the running for International Booker Prize

By Sherna Noah

A novel comprising just eight paragraphs has been shortlisted for the International Booker Prize.

The shortlist for the £50,000 prize, celebrating the best translated fiction from around the world, was announced digitally because of coronavirus restrictions.

The six books explore “trauma, loss and sweeping illness”.

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes from Spanish, has just eight paragraphs.

Each chapter is a single paragraph while one reviewer said it was “littered with profanities”.

It opens with the “gruesome discovery of a murder victim”, but asks,”‘Why?’ rather than ‘Who?’”

In “a propulsive translation, the eight paragraphs of this novel spiral down through layers of violence, corruption and desire,” the judges said.

Like two other books on the shortlist – The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa and The Discomfort Of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld – the novel touches on how “trauma, whether through violent acts or emotional loss, shape our experiences and approach to the world”.

Three of the novels – The Enlightenment Of The Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, The Adventures Of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara and Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann – have been inspired by their nations’ histories.

The novels celebrate “the pursuit of intellectual freedom, the exploration of sexual identity, and survival in the face of political unrest and sweeping illness,” judges said.

The shortlist features titles translated from Spanish, German, Dutch, Farsi and Japanese.

It was chosen by a panel of five judges and the £50,000 prize is split equally between author and translator.

The winner of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize was Celestial Bodies by the Omani writer Jokha Alharthi, translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth.

Last year, Booker prize judges split the prize between two authors, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo.

The 2020 International Booker Prize Shortlist:
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar
Anonymous translator from Farsi
The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara
Translated by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh from Spanish
Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann
Translated by Ross Benjamin from German
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor
Translated by Sophie Hughes from Spanish
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
Translated by Stephen Snyder from Japanese
The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
Translated by Michele Hutchison from Dutch

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