The 2021 International Booker Prize longlist features The Perfect Nine: The Epic Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

The 2021 International Booker Prize longlist was announced today, 30 March 2021 and it features 13 novels including The Perfect Nine: The Epic Gikuyu and Mumbi by Kenyan writer and academic Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

International Booker Prize is awarded every year since 2004 to recognise a single book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. It complements The Booker Prize (formerly known as Booker Prize for Fiction and then, Man Booker Prize until 2020), which is awarded each year for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

The literary competition recognises both novels and short-story collections as well. Its £50,000 prize is split evenly between the author and translator(s). Additionally, shortlisted books win £1,000 (which are also evenly split).

In 2021, the judges considered 125 books before coming up with this longlist of 13 books. Lucy Hughes-Hallett, a cultural historian and novelist, served as the chair of the judges while journalist and writer Aida Edemariam; Man Booker-shortlisted novelist Neel Mukherjee; Professor of the History of Slavery Olivette Otele; and poet, translator and biographer George Szirtes completed the panel of judges.

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Here is the complete list of the 2021 International Booker longlist:

  1. I Live in the Slums by Can Xue, translated from Chinese by Karen Gernant & Chen Zeping, Yale University Press
  2. At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from French by Anna Mocschovakis, Pushkin Press
  3. The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili, translated from Georgian by Elizabeth Heighway, Peirene Press
  4. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell, Granta Books
  5. When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West, Pushkin Press
  6. The Perfect Nine: The Epic Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ng?g? wa Thiong’o, translated from Gikuyu by the author, VINTAGE, Harvill Secker
  7. The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken, Lolli Editions
  8. Summer Brother by Jaap Robben, translated from Dutch by David Doherty, World Editions
  9. An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky, translated from German by Jackie Smith, Quercus, MacLehose Press
  10. Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, translated from Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette, Fitzcarraldo Editions
  11. In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale, Fitzcarraldo Editions
  12. Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý, translated from Swedish by Nichola Smalley, And Other Stories
  13. The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard, translated from French by Mark Polizzotti, Pan Macmillan, Picador

In a closing statement after the announcement, Lucy Hughes-Hallett wrote that despite the uniqueness of all the books, they all have a common theme, “migration, the pain of it, but also the fruitful interconnectedness of the modern world.” 

She also thanked authors and translators for the works on the longlist and says that she hopes many more readers will enjoy the freedom to explore the world through books.

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About The Author


Obinna is a fiction writer from Lagos, Nigeria, and grew up loving comic book characters and superheroes. He watches lots of action films and writes entertainment and technology articles. He is also interested in science and how things work.

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