Stefan Hertmans first ever Belgian on the Man Booker International longlist

Stefan Hertmans first ever Belgian on the Man Booker International longlist

The New York Times places it in the 2016 top 10, The Economist calls it one of the best books of the year and now it has been nominated for the Man Booker International Prize 2017 longlist. The English-speaking world is lapping up Stefan Hertmans’ War and Turpentine.

On 16 March the organisation of the Man Booker International Prize announced the 13 nominees for the longlist. Alongside Israeli Amos Oz, French Prix-Goncourt-winner Mathias Enard and up-and-coming German author Clemens Meyer, Flemish author Stefan Hertmans also appeared on the list. 

Since its original publication in 2013, Oorlog en terpentijn has been deluged with positive responses, with sales receiving an extra boost from the commemoration of World War I in 2014. Hertmans’ Oorlog en terpentijn has won various prizes in Flanders and the Netherlands.

The novel was translated into English by David McKay and published in the UK in 2016 by Harvill Secker, later appearing in the US published by Knopf and Australia and New Zealand by Text. The promising review in The Guardian stated, “War and Turpentine has all the markings of a future classic”, and The New York Times compared Hertmans with the German author W. G. Sebald. Translator David McKay praised Hertmans’ style in De Standaard: “With Stefan Hertmans you hear a poet speaking.”

Meanwhile Harvill Secker is up to four or five print runs. The translation rights were recently sold for Hebrew, Arabic, Greek and Turkish, bringing the novel up to 21 translations.

In Ons Erfdeel, the Dutch-language cultural magazine published by this organisation, Cyrille Offermans wrote a memorable review about the now world-famous novel: “Hertmans has an aversion to pathos; more than ever he excels in this book with a simultaneously austere, objective and extremely precise poetic style, a style which penetrates into the world of the objective but at the same time retains an eye for the realisation that there are always incomprehensible, melancholy remnants which hopelessly frustrate even the most refined language.”

The Man Booker International Prize is an annual British literary prize which goes in search of the best fiction of the past year. Both novels and short stories are eligible on condition that they have been translated into English and published in Great Britain. On 20 April we will know which six books have made the shortlist, and the final winner will be announced on 14 July. The prize goes to both the author and the translator, who share £50,000.

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