While people create trends in literature, like Harvey Thomlinson, the British author, publisher and translator, who favours Derrida and experiments with languages, translators often get to choose what they translate. He chose to bring Chinese writers to limelight — among them Man International Booker long-listed author Murong Xuecun. And it was his translation that was longlisted.
In Thomlinson’s own words: “ In those days, the web gave them space to widen the domain of the novel stylistically and thematically by covering subjects such as drugs, sex and violence. There were so many of these rough diamonds in the online riverbed, I even started to translate a few chapters myself, beginning with Murong’s first novel, Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu (2006).
“It was discovered on the website by literary agent Benython Oldfield and sold to Allen & Unwin. I took time off from work and for two weeks locked myself in a hotel in Bangkok, where the atmospherics resonated with the grit of Murong’s Chengdu. There’s tremendous pressure to do justice to such a great book. By the end of that time I had a first draft, the publisher entered it for the Man International (literary prize) without a lick of editing and it was longlisted.” Read more
Jokha Alharthi, an Omani writer, is the first Arabic author to win the Man Booker International Prize 2019 for her novel, Celestial Bodies. She shares her award with the translator of her book, academic Marilyn Booth who teaches Arabic literature in Oxford.
This international award was initiated in 2004 to complement the Man Booker Prize that went to a book published in English in England. It was given every two years for the author’s “continued creativity, development and overall contribution to fiction on the world stage”. It recognised the writer’s body of works rather than any one title. It was only in 2016, that the award started being given for a single title and would be shared between the author and the translator.
The story of this year’s winning title, Celestial Bodies, revolves around the life of three sisters who marry and move out into the world. The chairperson of the panel of judges, Bethany Hughes said, “Through the different tentacles of people’s lives and loves and losses we come to learn about this society – all its degrees, from the very poorest of the slave families working there to those making money through the advent of a new wealth in Oman and Muscat. It starts in a room and ends in a world.” Bethany Hughes was joined on the judging panel by philosopher Angie Hobbs, writer, translator and chair of English PEN Maureen Freely, novelist and satirist Elnathan John and essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra. Read more