Novel with eight paragraphs shortlisted for International Booker Prize

Novel containing just eight short paragraphs and ‘littered with profanities’ is shortlisted for International Booker Prize

  • Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, contained just eight small paragraphs
  • It opens with the ‘gruesome discovery of a murder victim’ and questions ‘Why?’ 
  • The six books shortlisted for prize explore ‘trauma, loss and sweeping illness’

A novel comprising just eight paragraphs has been shortlisted for the International Booker Prize.

The shortlist for the £50,000 prize, celebrating the best translated fiction from around the world, was announced digitally because of coronavirus restrictions.

The six books explore ‘trauma, loss and sweeping illness’.

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes from Spanish, has just eight paragraphs.


Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (left), translated by Sophie Hughes (right) from Spanish, has just eight paragraphs (Fernanda Melchor is pictured right)

Sophie Hughes, who translated the book Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, which is one of the shortlisted novels for this year’s International Booker Prize

Each chapter is a single paragraph while one reviewer said it was ‘littered with profanities’.

The novel opens with the macabre discovery of a decomposing body in a small waterway on the outskirts of La Matosa, a village in rural Mexico. 

It soon becomes apparent that the body is that of the local witch, who is both feared by the men and relied upon by the women, helping them with love charms and illegal abortions. 

The novel goes back in time, recounting the events which led to La Matosa’s witch’s murder from several perspectives.

It quickly transcends its detective story constraints: the culprits are named early on in the narrative, shifting the question to why rather than who. 

In ‘a propulsive translation, the eight paragraphs of this novel spiral down through layers of violence, corruption and desire,’ the judges said.

Melchor’s first novel to appear in English, is a formidable portrait of Mexico and its demons.

The shortlisted novels for this year’s International Booker Prize, (left to right) The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara, Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann, Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa and The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

The 2020 International Booker Prize Shortlist 

  • The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar
  • Anonymous translator from Farsi
  • The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara
  • Translated by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh from Spanish
  • Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann
  • Translated by Ross Benjamin from German
  • Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor
  • Translated by Sophie Hughes from Spanish
  • The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
  • Translated by Stephen Snyder from Japanese
  • The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
  • Translated by Michele Hutchison from Dutch

Like two other books on the shortlist – The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa and The Discomfort Of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld – the novel touches on how ‘trauma, whether through violent acts or emotional loss, shape our experiences and approach to the world’. 

Three of the novels – The Enlightenment Of The Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, The Adventures Of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara and Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann – have been inspired by their nations’ histories.

The novels celebrate ‘the pursuit of intellectual freedom, the exploration of sexual identity, and survival in the face of political unrest and sweeping illness,’ judges said.

The shortlist features titles translated from Spanish, German, Dutch, Farsi and Japanese.

It was chosen by a panel of five judges and the £50,000 prize is split equally between author and translator.

The winner of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize was Celestial Bodies by the Omani writer Jokha Alharthi, translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth.

Last year, Booker prize judges split the prize between two authors, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo. 

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