You are here

The luck of the Irish

The luck of the Irish

Last week, as 2018 Man Booker Prize submission forms were sent out to publishers, the Irish were given a new year’s treat. Acknowledging the special relationship between the UK and Irish publishing markets, a new rule stipulates that any novel written originally in English and published in Ireland would be eligible for the prize. Of course, Irish writers have been winning the prize since its inception – Anne Enright, Roddy Doyle and John Banville to name a few. However, if their books had been released by a publisher whose headquarters were in Ireland they’d be ineligible.

The huge impact the decision could have on the Irish market is outlined in Prospect magazine by Lisa Coen and Sarah Davis-Goff, who run the independent Irish Publisher Tramp Press. Tramp Press took a chance on Mike McCormack’s single-sentence novel Solar Bones after it was rejected by a host of larger publishers. But, under the old rules, it was only after they sold the UK rights to Canongate that it became eligible for the Man Booker – and was longlisted in 2017.  Now, as Lisa and Sarah explain, ‘If a writer from an Irish publisher wins, the publisher as well as the writer will reap the rewards and can re-invest in itself and in finding more exceptional, Booker-worthy fiction’.

For Kwame Anthony Appiah the year is off to a good start, and not just because it’s his year as Chair of Judges for the Man Booker Prize. His upcoming book, The Lies that Bind, published by Profile in September, has been selected by The Guardian and Financial Times as books to look out for in 2018. The book will expand on his 2016 Reith Lectures on the subject of ‘Mistaken Identities’;  =if you can’t wait nine months they are thankfully still available on the BBC

Marlon James, speaking at the 2018 Key West Literary Seminar, revealed that fellow Man Booker winner Salman Rushdie’s book Shame made him destroy his first novel. ‘I remember being so shocked and appalled by it… until I became sort of electrified by it,’ he reminisced, ‘and I totally threw out that first novel and rewrote a whole new one, because I just didn’t know that there were no boundaries – it really didn’t occur to me’. Other literary inspirations included Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, which he could once recite from memory. Discussing the art of writing unsavoury characters, James praised Mrs. Bennet’s unashamed investment in marrying off her daughters: ‘Mrs. Bennet is one of the few characters in that book who knows what time it is … [she is] saving lives!’

No one could accuse 2017 Man Booker International judge Daniel Hahn of failing to champion his craft. When he received €25,000 for winning the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award with author José Eduardo Agualusa for A General Theory of Oblivion – also shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize – he took some of his winnings to create a new literary award, which recognises first-time translators and their editors. The inaugural TA First Translation Prize announced its shortlist of six titles on Wednesday; including fiction, nonfiction and a graphic novel, the diverse list comprises translations into English from five languages – Arabic, French, Polish, Russian, and Thai. The £2,000 award will be shared equally by the winning translator and her or his editor(s).

In 2016 Deborah Smith’s translation of The Vegetarian by Han Kang won the new-format Man Booker International prize, launching the Korean novel onto the world stage. While English-speaking critics lauded the book – The Guardian described it as ‘sentence by sentence […] an extraordinary experience’ – Korean media was laden with charges of mistranslation. Last week, Smith published a response to the charges in the LA Review of Books. She describes the enormously complex act of conveying meaning from one language to another, and the impossible task of striving towards a ‘perfect’ translation.  She recalls being shaken by a deluge of ‘mistake-listing articles and emails’, which led to niggling feelings of self-doubt that she had somehow betrayed the work of someone she loves ‘to the point of reverence’. However, those doubts are overshadowed by feeling glad that she was able to bring a brilliant book to an international audience. And ultimately, ‘no translation is definitive — it’s simply a way to “Fail again. Fail better.” I think I failed okay’.  We’d be inclined to agree.

Finally, as part of this year’s Man Booker Golden anniversary celebrations, the prize has launched a competition for voracious readers on Instagram. Join the #ManBooker50 challenge, reading as many winning novels as you can muster by May 2018, in order to be in with the chance to win 2 tickets to the Man Booker 50 Festival at London’s Southbank Centre (July 6-8). T&C’s apply.