The shortlist for the biennial Man Booker International Prize has been announced and it’s notably less Anglocentric than previous years with only three of the 10 listed authors writing in English, and one of those was born and raised to the age of 20 in the former Yugoslavia, that being Josip Novakovich (Canada). The other writer from literalab’s part of the world is Russia’s Vladimir Sorokin. The rest of the list includes: Yan Lianke (China), Marilynne Robinson and Lydia Davis (US), Marie Ndiaye (France), UR Ananthamurthy (India), Aharon Appelfeld (Israel), Intizar Husain (Pakistan), and Peter Stamm (Switzerland).
From this article in The Guardian it sounds like the jury wasn’t overly determined to have a list with a good international and gender balance, but that the composition of the jury itself allowed for a broad range of choice. Previous years have included some good media-generating controversies of writers not wanting to be considered for the prize (see John le Carré) to a jury member protesting the award being given to Phillip Roth.
The end of Amerika
By way of Today in Literature it turns out that today is the centennial of Franz Kafka giving up on his first novel Amerika. I am toasting the occasion with a glass of wine at a café on Prague’s Národní street, a street where a few of the cafés Kafka frequented were (and still are) located, but as far as I know there are no other celebrations of this momentous date. Then again, maybe celebration isn’t the right word.
Chad Post recently wrote a review of the latest translation of the unfinished novel at Three Percent in which he tries admirably tries to separate the actual novel from Kafka’s canonized status. Some of his actual criticisms though are less successful, if not fairly baffling, such as writing “the number of injustices heaped on poor Karl is astounding and a bit crippling if you approach this book from a realist angle,” which only reminded me of Nabokov’s objection to the impossible number of teeth knocked out of Sancho Panza’s mouth throughout Don Quixote.
Talking about the social criticism of the book and wanting to avoid “over-emphasizing the fun parts of the book” is missing the point of what this book means for where Kafka was taking his writing and modern literature in general. It’s very far from a perfect book (though I think rating it 2.5 or 3 out of 5 stars as he does would make it hard for me to give many other books any stars at all) but its place is monumental, so monumental that there should be boatloads of revelers at the Statue of Liberty tonight lighting off fireworks and drinking themselves into oblivion in recognition of the moment a great writer reached a point (in Oklahoma, in the novel) where he felt he couldn’t go any further.