Here is the long-awaited Inter

2021 International Booker Prize Shortlist celebrates the best of the best in fiction. Picture via Twitter @TheBookerPrizes

Here is the long-awaited International Booker Prize 2021 Shortlist!

The International Booker Prize Shortlist has finally been announced, and this year’s list includes new names and familiar faces.

Here is the long-awaited Inter

2021 International Booker Prize Shortlist celebrates the best of the best in fiction. Picture via Twitter @TheBookerPrizes

This past week, the highly esteemed literary prize, the International Booker Prize, announced their long-awaited shortlist for 2021.

After intense deliberation by a panel of five carefully curated and high-esteemed judges, the shortlist of authors and translators who are now one step closer to winning that incredible and sought-after prize, The International Booker Prize, is announced to an eagerly awaiting literary world.


This year, the list includes authors from Russia, Denmark, Senegal and Argentina, just to name a few, and includes fiction from a wide array of genres.

The International Booker Prize, formerly known as the Man Booker Prize, is awarded annually to a book of fiction that has been translated into English and was published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. This literary prize celebrates the best of the best, giving recognition to incredible writers and translators from all over the world, and has been doing so for 16 years.


One of the defining features of the International Booker Prize is that it not only credits the translators of these great books, but it makes them equal with the authors. Both translator and author are celebrated and the prize money of £50,000 is divided between them equally.

The fact that this literary prize rewards the authors and their translators is what enables these great stories to be told, heard and appreciated by the whole world. The author creates the story, and the translator makes that story accessible.

Authors and translators who have the honor of having their incredible work included in the International Booker Prize Shortlist and then who have gone on to win this prestigious award include Chinua Achebe, Philip Roth, and David Grossman.

This year’s shortlist includes authors and translators who prove that language barriers are something that should not stand in the way of a good story and that teamwork, really does make the dream work.

The 2021 International Booker Prize shortlisted books are:

‘At night all blood is black’: by David Diop, translated by Anna Moschovakis

At Night All Blood is Black, which has been translated from French, captures the tragedy of a young man’s mind hurtling towards madness and tells the little-heard story of the Senegalese who fought for France on the Western Front during the First World War.

Alfa Ndiaye and Mademba Diop are two of the many Senegalese tirailleurs fighting in the Great War under the French flag. Whenever Captain Armand blows his whistle they climb out of their trenches to attack the blue-eyed enemy. But one day Mademba is mortally wounded, and without his friend, his more-than-brother, Alfa is alone amidst the savagery of the trenches, far from all he knows and holds dear. He throws himself into combat with renewed vigour, but soon begins to scare even his own comrades in arms.

‘The Dangers of Smoking in Bed’: by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell

Written against the backdrop of contemporary Argentina, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed (translated from Spanish) is populated by unruly teenagers, crooked witches, homeless ghosts, and hungry women. The stories walk the uneasy line between urban realism and horror, but with a resounding tenderness toward those in pain, in fear and in limbo. As terrifying as they are socially conscious, the stories press into the unspoken – fetish, illness, the female body, the darkness of human history – with bracing urgency. A woman is sexually obsessed with the human heart; a lost, rotting baby crawls out of a backyard and into a bedroom; a pair of teenage girls can’t let go of their idol; an entire neighborhood is cursed to death when it fails to respond correctly to a moral dilemma.

‘When We Cease to Understand the World’: by Benjamín Labatut, translated by Adrian Nathan West

Using extraordinary, epoch-defining moments from the history of science, When We Cease to Understand the World (translated from Spanish) exists in the territory between fact and fiction, progress and destruction, genius and madness.

Albert Einstein opens a letter sent to him from the Eastern Front during the First World War. Inside, he finds the first exact solution to the equations of general relativity, unaware that it contains a monster that could destroy his life’s work. The great mathematician Alexander Grothendieck tunnels so deeply into abstraction that he tries to cut all ties with the world, terrified of the horror his discoveries might cause. Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg battle over the soul of physics after creating two equivalent yet opposed versions of quantum mechanics. Their fight will tear the very fabric of reality, revealing a world stranger than they could have ever imagined.

‘The Employees’: by Olga Ravn, translated by Martin Aitken

Structured as a series of witness statements compiled by a workplace commission, The Employees follows the crew of the Six-Thousand Ship which consists of those who were born, and those who were made, those who will die, and those who will not. When the ship takes on a number of strange objects from the planet New Discovery, the crew is perplexed to find itself becoming deeply attached to them, and human and humanoid employees alike start aching for the same things: warmth and intimacy, loved ones who have passed, shopping and child-rearing, our shared, far-away Earth, which now only persists in memory.

Gradually, the crew members come to see their work in a new light, and each employee is compelled to ask themselves whether they can carry on as before – and what it means to be truly living. Wracked by all kinds of longing, The Employees probes what it means to be human, emotionally and ontologically, while simultaneously delivering an overdue critique of a life governed by work and the logic of productivity.

‘In Memory of Memory’: by Maria Stepanova, translated by Sasha Dugdale

In Memory of Memory (translated from Russian) tells the story of how a seemingly ordinary Jewish family somehow managed to survive the myriad persecutions and repressions of the last century. Following the death of her aunt, Maria Stepanova builds the story out of faded photographs, old postcards, letters, diaries, and heaps of souvenirs left behind: a withered repository of a century of life in Russia.

In dialogue with writers like Roland Barthes, W. G. Sebald, Susan Sontag and Osip Mandelstam, In Memory of Memory is imbued with rare intellectual curiosity and a wonderfully soft-spoken, poetic voice. Dipping into various forms – essay, fiction, memoir, travelogue and historical documents – Stepanova assembles a vast panorama of ideas and personalities and offers an entirely new and bold exploration of cultural and personal memory.

READ: Scottish author Douglas Stuart wins 2020 Booker Prize for ‘Shuggie Bain’

‘The War of the Poor’: by Éric Vuillard, translated by Mark Polizzotti

The history of inequality is a long and terrible one. And it’s not over yet. Short, sharp and devastating, The War of the Poor tells the story of a brutal episode from history, not as well-known as tales of other popular uprisings, but one that deserves to be told. The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century takes on the powerful and the privileged. But quickly it becomes more about the bourgeoisie. Peasants, the poor living in towns, who are still being promised that equality will be granted to them in heaven, begin to ask themselves: and why not equality now, here on earth? There follows a furious struggle. Out of this chaos steps Thomas Müntzer, a complex and controversial figure. Sifting through history, Éric Vuillard extracts the story of one man whose terrible and novelesque life casts light on the times in which he lived – a moment when Europe was in flux. Inspired by the recent gilets jaunes protests in France: a populist, grassroots protest movement – led by workers – for economic justice. While The War of the Poor is about 16th-century Europe, this short polemic has a lot to say about inequality now.

The Booker Prize 2021 Winner will be announced on 2 June.