The 2024 International Booker Prize shortlist was announced on April 9. The winning author-translator duo will be awarded a cash prize of £50,000 to be equally shared at a ceremony in London on May 21. There is also a prize of £5,000 for each of the shortlisted titles, to be shared jointly between the author and the translator(s).

The jury is chaired by writer Eleanor Wachtel and comprises Natalie Diaz, novelist Romesh Gunesekera, visual artist William Kentridge, and translator Aaron Robertson. Wachtel said the shortlist “while implicitly optimistic, engages with current realities of racism and oppression, global violence and ecological disaster.”

In this year’s shortlist, six languages (Dutch, German, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish), six countries (Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, South Korea and Sweden) and three continents (Asia, Europe and South America) are represented. Among the authors and translators, nine women and four men are shortlisted. South Korea is represented for the third year running and Argentina for the fourth time in five years. Itamar Viera Junior is shortlisted for his debut novel and Hwang Sok-yong is shortlisted for his ninth book translated into English. Previously longlisted authors Hwang and Jenny Erpenbeck and translator Sora Kim-Russell have made it to the shortlist for the first time. Only one person among the 13 shortlisted authors and translators is British. None of them have been shortlisted for the prize before. Five of the books are published by independent publishers. Indies have won the prize six times out of eight since 2016.

Read the opening lines and the jury comments on each of the shortlisted titles:

Not a River, Selva Almada, translated from the Spanish by Annie McDermott

Enero Rey, standing firm on the boat, stocky and beardless, swollen-bellied, legs astride, stares hard at the surface of the river and waits, revolver in hand. Tilo, the kid, aboard the same boat, leans back, the rod butt at his hip, turning the reel handle, tugging the line: a glittering thread in the waning sun. El Negro, fifty-something like Enero, alongside the boat, water up to his balls, leans back as well, red-faced from the sun and hard work, rod bent as he winds in and lets out the line. The spool spinning and his breath a kind of wheeze. The river pancake flat.

Pump and reel, pump and reel. She’s hugging the bottom. Get her up, get her up.

After two, three hours, tired and almost through, Enero repeats the instructions in a murmur, like a prayer.

He feels dizzy. Pickled by the wine and heat. He looks up and his red eyes, sunk deep in his puffy face, are blinded and everything goes white and he’s lost and reaches for his head and ends up firing into the air.

Without stopping what he’s doing, Tilo grimaces and yells.

What the hell, you moron!

Enero comes to.

All good. You guys keep going. Pump and reel, pump and reel. She’s hugging the bottom. Get her up, get her up.

She’s coming! She’s coming up!

Enero leans over the side. Sees it draw closer. A stain beneath the surface of the river. He takes aim and fires. Once. Twice. Three times. The blood rises, gushing, washes away. He sits up. Puts back the gun. Tucks it in the waistband of his shorts.

Tilo from the boat and El Negro from the water lift the creature out. Grabbing it by the fleshy grey frills. Throwing it on board.

Watch the stinger!

Says Tilo.

He takes the knife, cuts the barb from the body, sends it back to the depths of the river.

Not A River moves like water, in currents of dream and overlaps of time which shape the stories and memories of its protagonists. Enero and El Negro have brought their young friend and protégé Tilo on a fishing trip along the Paraná River in Argentina. The island where they set up camp pulses with its own desires and angers, tensions equal to those of the men who have come together on its shores. Alongside the story of these grief-marred characters, the author offers those of the women of the town – and what luck to root for or mourn them: the mother whose ever-growing fires engulf us, her two flirtatious, youth-glowed daughters, and the almost-mythical manta ray who becomes one of the guardians and ghosts of this throbbing, feverish novel.’”

— The 2024 International Booker Prize judges

Mater 2-10, Hwang Sok-yong, translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae

Yi Jino set up his toilet on the opposite side of the catwalk, as far away from his tent as possible. On his first attempt, he tried holding onto the railing, but his upper body wouldn't stop tipping forward. He had to press hard with his big toes to not lose his balance: flexed as tight as eagle claws inside his sneakers, those toes were the only thing keeping him from falling on his face or his bum. He didn't dare miss the target.

He looked down between his legs to see if his waste was dropping into the small plastic container he’d placed on the catwalk. It had taken him a while to come up with this solution. At first, he'd used plastic bags to store his faeces, but they were useless at containing the smell, and he worried about them leaking. But then a stomach-ache one day had prompted his support team to bring him rice porridge for breakfast. After three meals of the stuff, he'd finally started to feel better, and it had occurred to him then that the porridge containers were the perfect size for a makeshift toilet. The stench was awful in the limited space of the catwalk, but once he snapped the lid back on and wrapped the container up tight in a plastic bag, the air was breathable again. As soon as he put in his request for empty containers, his support team procured a dozen and sent them up a few at a time. He used each container once before sending them all down, and his team washed and dried them carefully before sending them back up again.

This time, after sealing up his waste, Jino stood for a moment with his hands on the railing, gazing down at the unchanging view of the city. The sun was just beginning to poke its face over the horizon, and the first flush of dawn had spread through the clouds. Buildings of different heights downtown and the towering apartment complexes reminded him of a jungle. He could see a line of trees along the roadside and more trees in Yeouido Park off to the right. May was the colour of new leaves. The Omokgyo Bridge, where he'd played as a child, was now all concrete, but the stream below still flowed as true as ever into the Hangang River.

“A sweeping and comprehensive book about a Korea we rarely see in the West, blending the historical narrative of a nation with an individual’s quest for justice. Hwang highlights the political struggles of the working class with the story of a complicated national history of occupation and freedom, all seen through the lens of Jino, from his perch on top of a factory chimney, where he is staging a protest against being unfairly laid off.”

— The 2024 International Booker Prize judges

What I’d Rather Not Think About, Jente Posthuma, translated from the Dutch by Sarah Timmer Harvey

Waterboarding, I told my mother. It's when someone places a cloth over your face, then continuously pours water over it. It feels like drowning. It is drowning.

And you’re going to do it, she said.


My mother sighed. This has to be one of your brother’s ideas.

We’d just seen a film about Guantanamo Bay, I said. Afterwards, he asked if I could waterboard him, he wants to know how it feels, and I said I'd only do it if he did it to me too. So, that’s how it came about.

And how was it? My mother asked.

We haven't done it yet!

As my mother grew older, her listening skills had become even worse.

Oh yes, she said. I was watching a show on television yesterday, and one of my favourite characters was blown up, which is why I slept so poorly.

We felt we should be able to lie in a reasonably comfortable position, so we decided to do it on my couch. My brother went first. He lay on his back with a red checked dishcloth draped over his face. I stood next to him with a jug of water. Here we go, I said, pouring water over the cloth. After a few seconds, my brother pulled the cloth off his face and sat up.

Maybe we should tie you up, I said.

I tied his wrists together with one of my stockings and started again. We agreed that I would remove the cloth after thirty seconds and set a timer on my phone. My brother gasped and tried to move his arms. He’s drowning, I thought. It took a long time for thirty seconds to pass and once I’d lifted the cloth away from his face and he'd finished coughing, he said: That’s enough.

I didn’t want my wrists bound, I wanted to be able to pull the cloth off my face whenever it suited me.

That’s not how this works, my brother said. He tied the stocking around my wrists and put the cloth over my face. The water ran into my nose, and I couldn’t breathe. I tried to get up and knocked something over with my leg. Once I was finally upright, I shook the wet cloth off my face and wrenched my hands free. My brother handed me a tissue to wipe my face but I shook my head, breathing in and out over and over again. Church bells rang, the alarm on my phone went off.

Why didn’t you help me?

Sorry, he said.

“A deeply moving exploration of grief and identity through the lives of twins, one of whom dies by suicide. Posthuma delves into the surviving twin’s efforts to understand and come to terms with the loss of her brother, examining the profound complexities of familial bonds. Posthuma navigates delicate themes with sensitivity and formal inventiveness, portraying the nuances of the twins’ relationship and the individual struggles they face. The author skilfully inflects tragedy with unexpected humour and provides a multifaceted look at the search for meaning in the aftermath of suicide. What I’d Rather Not Think About stands out for its empathetic portrayal of love, loss, and resilience.”

— The 2024 International Booker Prize judges

Crooked Plow, Itamar Vieira Junior, translated from the Portuguese by Johnny Lorenz

When I opened the suitcase and took out the knife, wrapped in a grimy old rag tied with a knot and covered in dark stains, I was just over seven years old. My sister Belonísia, at my side, was about a year younger than me. We'd been playing outside of our old house with dolls we'd fashioned from corn harvested the previous week. We’d transform the yellowing husks around the cobs into dresses, pretending the dolls were our daughters, the daughters of Bibiana and Belonísia. When we noticed Grandma Donana in the backyard, walking away from the house, we turned toward each other to give the nod: all clear. It was time to find out what she'd been hiding in her leather suitcase, among threadbare clothes that smelled like rancid lard. It wasn't lost on Grandma how quickly we were growing up; curious girls, we'd push into her bedroom and interrogate her about conversations we'd overheard and things that piqued our interest, such as the objects buried in her suitcase. Our parents would reprimand us constantly, but Grandma only needed to give that firm look of hers, and we’d shiver and blush as if we'd drawn too close to the fire.

So when I saw her walking through the backyard, I immediately looked over at Belonísia. Determined to rifle through Grandma's things, I decided I'd tiptoe over to her room and open the suitcase, its worn leather tarnished and covered in a layer of dirt. That suitcase had been hidden beneath her bed for as long as we could remember. From the doorway I spied Grandma making her way toward the woods past the orchard and vegetable garden, beyond the old roosts of the chicken coop. In those days we were already accustomed to the way Grandma would talk to herself, muttering the strangest things, like when she’d ask someone – someone we couldn't see to stay away from Carmelita, the aunt we'd never met. Grandma would tell that ghost dwelling in her memory to leave her girls alone. She’d utter a jumble of random, disconnected phrases. She’d talk about beings we couldn’t see-spirits – or people we didn’t know, distant relatives and comrades. We were used to hearing Grandma ramble on like that in the house, at the front door, on her way out to the fields, and in the backyard, as though in deep conversation with the chickens or withered trees. Belonísia and I would glance over at each other, laugh under our breath, and draw closer without her noticing. We’d pretend to play with whatever was at hand just to eavesdrop on her, and later, in the company of our dolls and the plants and animals, we’d repeat what Grandma had said with great seriousness. We’d repeat, too, what our mother whispered to our father in the kitchen: “She was talking up a storm today, she's been talking to herself more and more.” Our father was reluctant to admit that Grandma had been showing signs of dementia, claiming she’d always talked to herself, she’d always recited her prayers and incantations aloud with that same distracted air.

“…Set in the Bahia region of Brazil, where approximately one third of all enslaved Africans were sent during the height of the slave trade, the novel invites us into the deep-rooted relationships of Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous peoples to their lands and waters – including the ways these communities demand love, gods, song, and dream – despite brutal colonial disruptions. An aching yet tender story of our origins of violence, of how we spend our lives trying to bloom love and care from them, and of the language and silence we need to fuel our tending.” 

— The 2024 International Booker Prize judges

Kairos, Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

On that Friday in July, she thought: Even if he comes now, I’m still going.

On that Friday in July, he spent all day over two sentences. Who knew writing was this hard, he thought.

She thought: I’ve had it up to here with him.

He thought: And it’s not getting any better.

She: Maybe the record will have come.

He: The Hungarians will maybe have a copy of the Lukács.

She grabbed her jacket and bag and went out.

He picked up his jacket and his cigarettes.

She crossed the bridge.

He walked up Friedrichstrasse.

And because there was no sign of the bus coming, she dove into the second-hand bookstore.

He passed Französische Strasse.

She bought a book. And the price of the book was twelve marks.

And when the bus stopped, he got in.

She had the exact change.

And just as the bus had closed its doors, she emerged from the store. And when she saw the bus not yet moving off, she broke into a run.

And the bus driver made an exception for her and opened the rearward door. And she got on the bus.

As they passed the Operncafé, the skies grew dark, and when they reached the Kronprinzenpalais the storm broke, a flurry of rain blew at the passengers when the bus stopped on Marx-Engels-Platz and opened its doors. A lot of passengers pressed in to get out of the rain. And she, who had been by the door, was pushed into the middle.

The doors closed again, the bus moved off, and she felt for a handhold. And that’s when she saw him.

And he saw her.

“An expertly braided novel about the entanglement of personal and national transformations, set amid the tumult of 1980s Berlin. Kairos unfolds around a chaotic affair between Katharina, a 19-year-old woman, and Hans, a 53-year-old writer in East Berlin. Erpenbeck’s narrative prowess lies in her ability to show how momentous personal and historical turning points intersect, presented through exquisite prose that marries depth with clarity. She masterfully refracts generation-defining political developments through the lens of a devastating relationship, thus questioning the nature of destiny and agency. Kairos is a bracing philosophical inquiry into time, choice, and the forces of history.”  

— The 2024 International Booker Prize judges

The Details, Ia Genberg, translated from the Swedish by Kira Josefsson

After a few days of the virus in my body I come down with a fever, which is followed by an urge to return to a particular novel. It's only once I sit down in bed and open the book that I understand why. There's an inscription on the title page, made in blue ballpoint and inimitable handwriting:

May 29, 1996

Get well soon.

There are crêpes and cider at Fyra Knop.

I’m waiting until we can go there again.

Kisses (they would prefer to be on your lips),


It was malaria back then; I'd been infected a couple of weeks prior by an East African mosquito in a tent outside of the Serengeti and fell sick once we were home again. I was admitted to Hudiksvall Hospital and nobody could understand why all my results were off the charts; when at last they gave me the diagnosis, the doctors lined up to get a look at the woman with the exotic affliction. A fire blazed behind my brow, and I woke at dawn every morning at the hospital from the sound of my own breathing and a headache unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Following our trip to Tanzania, I’d gone straight to Haisingiana to visit my grandfather on his deathbed. Instead I fell ill and nearly died myself. I spent more than a week at the hospital, but by the time Johanna gave me this novel, I was curled up in our bedroom in Hägersten, where they had taken me by ambulance via a liver biopsy in Uppsala. I don’t remember the results – there’s not much I can recall from that summer – but I’ll never forget our apartment, the book, or her. The novel disappeared inside the fever and headache, fused with them, and somewhere in that mix is the line that runs all the way to today, a vein of emotion electrified by illness and fear, which is what propels me to the bookcase on this afternoon to find that specific novel. Ruthless fever and headache, fretful thoughts crowding behind the eyes, the whooshing of impending distress: I recognise it all because I’ve experienced it before the boxes of useless painkillers on the floor by the bed, the bottles of sparkling water I guzzle without any reprieve to my thirst. The images start rolling the instant I shut my eyes: horses’ hooves in a dry desert, dank basements full of mute ghosts, big vowels screaming at me – it’s the full standard menu of nightmares I’ve had since I was a small child, only with the added sprinkling of death and annihilation that is the territory of illness.

“Ia Genberg writes with a remarkably sharp eye about a series of messy relationships between friends, family and lovers. Using, as she says, “details, rather than information”, she gives us not simply the “residue of life presented in a combination of letters” but an evocation of contemporary Stockholm and a moving portrait of her narrator. She has at times a melancholic eye, but her wit and liveliness constantly break through.”

— The 2024 International Booker Prize judges