Olga Tokarczuk, the Nobel Prize-winning Polish novelist, is among five female writers shortlisted for this years International Booker Prize, arguably the worlds most important award for fiction translated into English.
Tokarczuk is nominated for The Books of Jacob, along with translator Jennifer Croft, just four years after the pair won the same prize for Flights.
Other high-profile nominees on the six-strong shortlist, which was unveiled at the London Book Fair on Thursday, include Mieko Kawakami, the star Japanese author best known for Breasts and Eggs, and Claudia Piñeiro, the Argentine crime writer.
Tokarczuks The Books of Jacob tells the story of Jacob Frank, a self-proclaimed messiah who wanders around 18th-century Europe, acolytes in tow. When the Swedish Academy awarded Tokarczuk the Nobel Prize in literature in 2019, they called The Books of Jacob her magnum opus.
Originally published in Poland in 2014, the almost 1,000-page-long novel has received rave reviews in the United States since the English translation was published this year. Dwight Garner, in a review for The New York Times, called it Chaucerian in its brio. The book is an unruly, overwhelming, vastly eccentric novel that is sophisticated and ribald and brimming with folk wit, he added.
Kawakami is nominated for Heaven, a novel about a relentlessly bullied 14-year-old, translated from Japanese by Samuel Bett and David Boyd. Nadja Spiegelman, in a review for The New York Times, said the books bullying scenes are so lucid you can almost feel the pain yourself.
Piñeiros shortlisted book is Elena Knows, about a grief-stricken mother who turns detective to investigate her daughters apparent suicide. Kathleen Rooney, in a review for The New York Times, said that the novel, translated from Spanish by Frances Riddle, may at first glance seem like a tight and terse mystery. But, she said, its also a piercing commentary on mother-daughter relationships, the indignity of bureaucracy, the burdens of caregiving and the impositions of religious dogma on women.
The International Booker Prize is separate from the Booker Prize, which is for novels originally published in English, but comes with the same prize money: 50,000 pounds, or about $65,000. For the International Booker Prize, the money is split equally between the author and translator.
The other shortlisted titles are:
A New Name: Septology VI-VII, by Jon Fosse, a Norwegian writer and playwright who is a star in his own country. Translated by Damion Searls, the novel is the last in a series and follows a highly religious artist in the moments before his death.
Cursed Bunny, a short story collection by Korean writer Bora Chung. Translated by Anton Hur, it combines elements of horror and science fiction to critique capitalism. Frank Wynne, the chair of the judging panel for this years prize, said in an online news conference that the collection was somewhere between David Lynch and the early body horror of David Cronenberg.
Geetanjali Shrees Tomb of Sand, translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, which follows an 80-year-old Indian womans journey to Pakistan after her husbands death. Wynne said the novels premise may sound depressing, but the book was anything but. It was filled with humor that must have made it very difficult to translate, he added.
The winner of this years prize will be announced May 26 at a ceremony in London.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times