On today’s 71st anniversary of the infamous 1948 El Bogotazo central to his novel, April 9th 2019 also coincidentally marks the announcement that Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s, The Shape of the Ruins has been shortlisted for the prestigious International Man Booker Prize. Translated into English in 2018 by Anne McLean, the novel will stand against five other works of international literature in a bid for the prize.
A female dominated shortlist, Vásquez is the only male to feature on this year’s list which was hand selected by a panel of five judges chaired by Bettany Hughes, award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. Featuring works originally written in five languages, the shortlist also comprises an all-female list of translators.
Vásquez’s The Shape of the Ruins is one of two in the shortlist originally written in the Spanish language. A devilishly enticing tale of conspiracy theories, the novel focuses on Colombia’s troubled history in the first half of the 20th century, namely, the assassination of leading liberal politicians General Rafael Uribe Uribe in October 1914 and Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in April 1948. Told through the affability of his own voice, Vásquez befriends the reader, taking them into his past and introducing them to the people who live to discuss the conspiracies of those who are dead. With his haunting words, Vásquez’s innate ability to captivate and ensnare the reader into a subject still so complexly tangled to this very day propels him as an iconic Colombian writer breaking the mould of magical realism and replacing it with startling reality – ‘this book..written in atonement for crimes that, although I did not commit them, I have ended up inheriting.’
Awarded annually to a single book translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland, the prize’s objective is to celebrate the finest works of translated fiction from around the globe and places equal importance on both author and translator, with the £50,000 prize money set to be split equally between the two. The winner of the prize will be announced at a ceremony in London on the 21st of May.