The International Booker Prize
Time: 18:00 - 19:30
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT212
Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)
What is the course about?
The International Booker Prize took its current form in 2016, when it merged with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize to become a yearly award for a single book translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. Since then, there have been five winners, of which we will read three: Han Kang’s The Vegetarian (winner 2016); Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights (2018); and Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies (2019). These books were translated from Korean, Polish and Arabic respectively, and as such can be read for insight into other cultures, countries and linguistic traditions, thereby expanding our literary and intellectual horizons.
Beyond this, some commentators hope the prize can address the lack of ‘bibliodiversity’ in the UK, in which only three per cent of books published are in translations. Can it help build the audience for foreign fiction and thereby advance cross-cultural exchange? While the prize has unarguably increased sales of those titles it has shortlisted, it has also faced criticism that, by using Anglo-British literary critics to evaluate literature from other cultural and linguistic contexts, a kind of ‘postcolonial exotic’ is created at the expense of other, more worthwhile, writing from abroad. There has also been scrutiny of the role of translators, who share the prize money with the original authors, participate in the promotion of the titles and contribute to their cultural value in Anglophone countries.
On this course we will examine these issues alongside close readings of our three representative texts to assess the literary value and cultural impact of the prize so far.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
• History and purpose of the International Booker Prize in the context of 21st century prize culture
• Close readings of three of the winning titles:
o The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith
o Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft
o Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth
• Judging panels, literary value and issues of translation
• The literary marketplace (including cultural impact, audience-building, cross-cultural exchange, role of the publishing industry and media).
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Discuss in an informed manner the literary merits and techniques of three winners of the International Booker Prize
• Situate the prize and its winners in the context of 21st century prize culture and related cultural factors
• Evaluate the impact and potential of the prize to increase ‘bibliodiversity’ in the UK.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
For those who enjoy reading and discussing literature and are interested in sharing ideas and listening to the views of others.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The classes will be highly participatory and interactive, with a combination of pair and group work, close reading exercises and class discussion. We will make use of mixed media including photographs, film and audio interviews along with extracts from the texts themselves. While the tutor will provide expert guidance and knowledge, your own responses and ideas will be to the fore.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You will need to buy or borrow a copy of each of the texts, all available in paperback as follows:
The Vegetarian (Portobello Books, 2015)
Flights (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2018)
Celestial Bodies (Sandstone Press, 2018)
Other articles and extracts will be provided by the tutor.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other literature courses at www.citylit.ac.uk/history, culture & writing/literature.
Lewis Ward is a London-based teacher and editor. His PhD (University of Exeter) focused on history, memory and trauma in contemporary narratives. He has taught at four UK universities, covering most literary periods and genres along the way.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.