Marlene Van Niekerk shortlisted for Man Booker International Prize

Credit: Lien Botha

Credit: Lien Botha

Marlene Van Niekerk has been shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. She is one of ten writers to be chosen for the £60,000 award which recognises one writer for his or her achievement in fiction. The authors come from ten different countries, and including Amitav Ghosh, Mia Couto, Ibrahim al-Koni and Fanny Howe. The overall winner will be announced at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 19 May.

The Man Booker International Prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. The judging panel consists of writer and academic, Professor Marina Warner (Chair); novelist Nadeem Aslam; novelist, critic and Professor of World Literature in English at Oxford University, Elleke Boehmer; Editorial Director of the New York Review Classics series, Edwin Frank, and Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at SOAS, University of London, Wen-chin Ouyang. The winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel; there are no submissions from publishers.  Lydia Davis won the prize in 2013, Philip Roth in 2011, Alice Munro in 2009, Chinua Achebe in 2007 and Ismail Kadaré won the inaugural prize in 2005.  In addition, there is a separate award for translation and, if applicable, the winner may choose a translator of his or her work into English to receive a prize of £15,000.

The judges describe Marlene as “the author of two immense masterpieces, TRIOMF and AGAAT, which chart in evocative, sometimes disturbing detail the aches and aggravations of political transition in South Africa for those who saw themselves as on the losing side, in particular impoverished Afrikaners. Van Niekerk’s vision is ambitious, uncompromising and irrefutable. The bold experimentalism of her Afrikaans takes the reader deep inside the contortions of the apartheid psyche and asks whether some historical hurts and hatreds can ever be entirely erased.” Read more on the Man Booker website.

Marlene Van Niekerk was awarded South Africa’s high honour, the Order of Ikhamanga, in 2011 for her “outstanding intellectual contribution to literary arts and culture field through poetry, literature and philosophical works”. Her debut novel TRIOMF (Little Brown, 1994) was a New York Times Notable Book, 2004, winner of C.N.A Literary Award, M-Net Prize and prestigious Noma Award for the Best Book in Africa. The film adaptation won the Best South African Film Award at Durban International Film Festival, 2008.

Her novel AGAAT received the following accolades in its Afrikaans and English editions:

- Shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, 2008.
- Winner of the South African Sunday Times Literary Prize 2007 and the Hertzog Prize 2007, SA.
- University of Johannesburg Prize, M-Net Award, W.A. Hofmeyr Award, all 2005.
- Shortlisted Booksellers' Choice Award South Africa 2005 and the M-Net Literary Prize 2007.
- #1 on Swedish Bestsellers List for five weeks in 2012.
- Chosen as Book of the Month by Good Housekeeping.
-Shortlisted for Three Percent's Best Translated Book Award, sponsored by, 2011.
- Longlisted for the Independent Booksellers Choice Award 2011
- Listed in Publisher Weekly’s Top 100 Best Books of 2010 and picked as one of Booklist Editor’s Choice List for 2010. 

Marlene van Niekerk is also the author of the short story collections, DIE VROU WAT HAAR VERKYKER VERGEET HET  and DIE SNEEUSLAPER and the novella MEMORANDUM, as well as the poetry collections SPROKKELSTER, GROENSTAAR and KAAR.  You can read some of her poetry in English on Poetry International here. 

Praise for AGAAT:

'I was immediately mesmerized by Ms. van Niekerk's novel. Its beauty matches its depth and her achievement is as brilliant as it is haunting.' -- Toni Morrison

'Van Niekerk follows the widely lauded TRIOMF with a dark, innovative epic that trudges through the depths of a South African farmwife's soul...Clearly an allegory for race relations in South Africa, the novel succeeds on numerous other grounds: a rich evocation of family dynamics; a chilling portrait of bodily and mental decay; and a successful experiment in combining diaries, the second-person, and stream of consciousness. Van Niekerk marshals it all to evoke the resigned mind of a dying woman who realizes, too late, the horrible mistakes that have made her life a waste.' -- Publishers Weekly starred review

'This novel stuns with its powerful sense of the rigors of farm life, desolation of a failing marriage, and comfort of a long and complex relationship.' -- Vanessa Bush, Booklist starred

Praise for TRIOMF:

‘A tempestuous, heartbreaking, exhilarating read.’ -- Elisabeth Vincentelli, Time Out New York

‘A distinguished new voice from South Africa writes about a white working class Afrikaner family with a shameful secret…A remarkably evocative portrayal of the usually ignored white underclass: the best post-apartheid novel yet.’  -- Kirkus