The International Booker Prize 2023
I like to scan the big prizes to see how much historical fiction shows up on the lists.
The 2023 International Booker Prize was announced on May 23rd. The prize honors novels translated into English. This year’s award went to Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov (translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel). Although you would not likely find this book listed under the historical fiction genre, it sounds like a fascinating treatment of fictionalized history.
Here’s the blurb from the Booker website:
“A ‘clinic for the past’ run by an enigmatic therapist offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers: each floor reproduces a decade in minute detail, transporting patients back in time to a familiar, safer, happier moment.
An unnamed narrator is tasked with collecting the flotsam and jetsam of the past, from 1960s furniture and 1940s shirt buttons to scents, and even afternoon light. But as the rooms within the clinic become more convincing, an increasing number of healthy people seek refuge there, hoping to escape the horrors of modern life - a development that results in an unexpected conundrum when the past begins to invade the present. Soon, entire countries want to emulate the idea, with referendums taking place to decide which particular version of the past will shape each nation’s future.”
Can we call this historical fantasy? It is certainly a high concept.
The only other historical fiction title on the longlist was Ninth Building by Jingzhi Zou (translated from Chinese by Jeremy Tiang.) Ninth Building is set in Beijing during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
That’s as close as the International Booker got to Long Ago & Far Away this year. The last time I had a close look at the International Prize, in 2020, five of the longlist were historicals. Hmmmm.
For the rest of the International Booker Prize 2023 Longlist, see their website here.
The Booker Prize 2023 (English language originals) longlist will be announced on August 1, with the shortlist to follow on September 21. The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced on November 26, 2023. Submissions are open now.
Anyone want to give it a shot?