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The business end of the Man Booker International

The business end of the Man Booker International

With the week of the Man Booker International Prize shortlist now on us, congratulations are due to several Man Booker alumni not eligible for this year's award. Orhan Pamuk, Robert Seethaler, José Eduardo Agualusa and Mia Couto – all former Man Booker International nominees – are joined by Anne Enright and Hanya Yanagihara (the former a Man Booker winner, the latter a shortlistee) on the 11-strong shortlist for the Impac Prize – International Dublin Literary Award – worth €100,000. The winner will be announced on 21 June. Plaudits too to Hisham Matar, a Man Booker shortlistee in 2006, who has just scooped the Pulitzer Prize for biography for The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, his powerful memoir recounting the disappearance of his father in Gadaffi's Libya.


Two films by Man Booker writers have just hit the big screen and have been garnering critical praise: Julian Barnes's 2011 Man Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending and a left-field Korean adaptation of Sarah Waters's 2002 Fingersmith, The Handmaiden. Responses to the former boil down to lauding the film as being as thoughtful as the book while critics have gone overboard with their praise for The Handmaiden, directed by Park Chan-wook – five stars all round being the order of the day. Park has transported Waters's story of deception involving a pickpocket, a conman, a pornographer and an heiress from Victorian London to 1930s Japanese-occupied Korea and the author herself has praised the way Park has identified and remained faithful to the spirit of her book. Of course this is not the first time Fingersmith has reached the screen, it was adapted for a television miniseries back in 2005. Indeed four of her six novels have been adapted for television and her most recent book, The Paying Guest, is currently undergoing the process courtesy of Emma Donoghue, Man Booker shortlisted in 2010 for Room (itself turned into a very successful film).


In a recent interview, Barnes recalled that he had urged the filmmakers to ‘throw my book against the wall, pick up the pieces and then put them together in a different way’ but was nevertheless startled when an early draft of the script appeared to contain not a single line of dialogue from his book. The exercise has made Barnes dwell on the different natures of fiction and film: ‘It seems to me that truthful fiction often ends ambivalently or pessimistically,’ he says. ‘Film, on the whole, likes to give a clear answer, a clear ending. And films believe in this awful thing: redemption. I don’t believe in redemption and would never write a book where the character is redeemed.”


Howard Jacobson, Man Booker winner in 2010, is currently – like half the world – fixated by Donald Trump. He has just published a satirical novella about the camera-magnet Potus called Pussy and in writing it became a keen student of the Trumpian style of oratory. As well as confessing his fascination with the president's limited vocabulary (‘not just how few his words but how narrow their range, from boastful to irked and back again’) what has really taken him aback is that this has proved a strength not a weakness: ‘Many men are intoxicated by what comes out of their mouths’, he notes, ‘what is extraordinary about Trump is how little it takes to get him drunk.’