Friday, April 8, 2022

The International Booker Prize, My Favorite Unfinished Novel, & New Books in May


My favorite longlisted book didn't make the shortlist.

Is the International Booker Prize more dramatic and exciting than The Booker Prize?

The Booker Prize is exciting, and has introduced me to the work of brilliant writers, among them Anita Brookner, Stanley Middleton, Barry Unsworth, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.  But perhaps it has lost a tad of glamour since American novels became eligible for the prize.  No one complains, except the English writers who signed a petition against it - and their reasons are different from mine.   But I'm such an anglophile that the yearly Booker longlist is a cherished source of information about British and Commonwealth writers. 

This year I'm also looking at the International Booker Prize, which isn't exactly dramatic or exciting.  But it introduces me to Worthy Books, and some of them are Brilliant as well as Worthy.

This spring  I loved The Book of Mother, by Violaine Huisman, which was longlisted for the International Booker.  It didn't make the shortlist, but my favorites seldom do. (I wrote briefly about The Book of Mother here).  My husband favored David Grossman's More Than I Love My Life, but it didn't make the list, either.  I may read a few more from the list, but it will not be Olga Tokarczuk's medieval blockbuster, The Books of Jacob (1,000 pages). 

And here is The International Booker Prize shortlist:

Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur from Korean (Honford Star)
A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd from Japanese (Picador)
Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish (Charco Press)
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell from Hindi (Titled Axis Press)
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft from Polish (Fitzcarraldo Editions)


I'm not a cheerleader or a "book slut," but I am looking forward to two new books in May:  Elif Batuman's Either/Or, the sequel to her funny, smart novel, The Idiot; and James Campbell's Just Go Down to the Road: A Memoir of Trouble and Travel. (You can read an excerpt from Campbell's memoir at The Hudson Review.
He  used to write the N.B. column for the TLS, signed with his initials J.C.)


My favorite unfinished novel is Gogol's Dead Souls, which I recently reread, chortling over the anti-hero Chichikov's escapades.  Chichikov is traveling through the provinces for a  peculiar business reason:  he wants to buy "dead souls," i.e., dead male serfs, from landowners who will be taxed on the dead souls until the next census counts them as dead.  Chichikov plans to to buy them cheaply and use them as collateral for a mortgage.

This is very, very funny.  But as you can imagine, things don't go as he hoped - someone betrays him - and then he is run out of town.  But he still has hopes.  He never gives up. In the second part - the unfinished, patched-together part - Chichikov is at it again, trying to buy dead souls.  And really I like the ending, even though it is NOT the end.  This novel is so much fun! 

What is your favorite unfinished novel?


  1. Dead Souls sounds so good. My favorite unfinished novel is Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. It's also one of my favorite novels.

  2. A bit of very grim humor by Gogol. I was going to say Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell too. It's near finished. After that Austen's Persuasion (because it's not really finished).

    1. Now I've got to reread Persuasion, because I hadn't known it was not finished. It's certainly different from her other books.