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Works of Radical Imagination

We are extremely pleased to report that Simpatía by Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, translated by Noel Hernández González and Daniel Hahn, has been longlisted for the 2024 International Booker Prize!

Cover of Simpatia with International Booker Prize logo affixed to the front

Rodrigo Blanco Calderón has established himself as one of the great voices of Latin American literature with his debut novel The Night, and his short story collection Sacrifices. His latest book to be translated into English, Simpatía is a suspenseful novel with unexpected twists and turns about the agony of Venezuela and the collapse of Chavismo.

Simpatía is set in the Venezuela of Nicolas Maduro amid a mass exodus of the intellectual class who have been leaving their pets behind. Ulises Kan, the protagonist and a movie buff, receives a text message from his wife, Paulina, saying she is leaving the country (and him). Ulises is not heartbroken but liberated by Paulina's departure. Two other events end up disrupting his life even further: the return of Nadine, an unrequited love from the past, and the death of his father-in-law, General Martín Ayala. Thanks to Ayala’s will, Ulises discovers that he has been entrusted with a mission—to transform Los Argonautas, the great family home, into a shelter for abandoned dogs. If he manages to do it in time, he will inherit the luxurious apartment that he had shared with Paulina.

This novel centers on themes of family and orphanhood in order to address the abuse of power by a patrilineage of political figures in Latin America, from Simón Bolívar to Hugo Chávez. The untranslatable title, Simpatía, which means both sympathy and charm, ironically references the qualities these political figures share. In a morally bankrupt society, where all human ties seem to have dissolved, Ulises is like a stray dog picking up scraps of sympathy. Can you really know who you love? What is, in essence, a family? Are abandoned dogs proof of the existence or non-existence of God? Ulises unknowingly embodies these questions, as a pilgrim of affection in a post-love era.

Each year the International Booker Prize introduces readers to the best novels and short story collections from around the world that have been translated into English and published in the UK and/or Ireland.  

The prize recognises the vital work of translators with the £50,000 prize money divided equally: £25,000 for the author and £25,000 for the translator (or divided equally between multiple translators). In addition, there is a prize of £5,000 for each of the shortlisted titles: £2,500 for the author and £2,500 for the translator (or divided equally between multiple translators).  

The 13 books on the longlist have been chosen by the 2024 judging panel: broadcaster and journalist Eleanor Wachtel, as chair; award-winning poet Natalie Diaz; internationally acclaimed novelist Romesh Gunesekera;  groundbreaking visual artist William Kentridge; and writer, editor and translator Aaron Robertson.  

Their selection was made from 149 books published between 1 May 2023 and 30 April 2024 and submitted by publishers – the highest number since the prize was relaunched in its current format in 2016. 2024’s submissions were made up of books originally written in 32 languages, up from 27 in 2023. Since 2016, books representing 63 languages have been submitted for the prize, ranging from Farsi and Vietnamese to Kikuyu and Welsh.

The shortlist of six books will be announced on 9 April 2024. The winning title will be announced at a ceremony on 21 May 2024, which will be livestreamed.

Picture of Rodrigo Blanco Calderon taken by Emilio Morales

Rodrigo Blanco Calderón © Emilio Morales

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