Arts and Culture

The International Booker Prize 2023 has a winner. Here's a summary of the book - and all the others on the longlist

The International Booker Prize 2023 has been won by Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov for his novel Time Shelter.

The International Booker Prize 2023 has been won by Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov for his novel Time Shelter. Image: The Booker Prize

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This article was first published on 22 March 2023. It was updated on 24 April 2023 and 30 May 2023.

  • The International Booker Prize 2023 has been won by Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov for his novel Time Shelter.
  • The longlist for the prize contained books from 12 countries and translations from 11 languages – including first-time nominations for works in Catalan and Tamil.
  • Other novels on the list were by authors from countries including Spain, South Korea, Guadeloupe, Côte d’Ivoire and Mexico.

If you want to follow an ex-Soviet security officer and an ageing hippy around the Ukrainian city of Lviv, explore the lives of people from Côte D'Ivoire trying to survive as undocumented workers in France, or spend some time with a cook on a merchant ship off the coast of Chile, then the International Booker Prize 2023 has just provided your next reading list.

The annual award recognizes the best fiction from anywhere in the world, translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland. This year’s winner is Georgi Gospodinov for his novel Time Shelter. He is the first Bulgarian to have ever won the prize.

The shortlist featured six books from six different countries. The longlist of 13 titles contained books from 12 countries and translations from 11 languages – including first-time nominations for works in Catalan and Tamil.

Reading books from a variety of countries can help encourage broader cultural awareness, and this can, in turn, allow people in business to better understand and meet the needs of their customers. Developing an awareness of the wider world and playing an active role in the global community is also part of the World Economic Forum’s Education 4.0 framework.

A graphic showing the World Economic Forum's education 4.0 framework.
Developing an awareness of different cultures is a key part of education and business. Image: World Economic Forum.

Here’s a summary of the winning book, and all the other novels on the International Booker Prize 2023 short and long lists, including which countries the authors are from and the language their work was originally written in.

The winner of the International Booker Prize 2023

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov (Bulgaria; translated from Bulgarian)

A “clinic for the past” offers a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers by taking artefacts from different decades and creating meticulous replicas of these lost eras. As word gets around, people who do not have Alzheimer’s begin seeking out the clinic as a “time shelter” to escape from the troubles of the present. Past International Booker winner Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk says the novel sits on “a special shelf in my library that I reserve for books that demand to be revisited”.


The rest of the International Booker Prize 2023 shortlist

Boulder by Eva Baltasar (Spain; originally written in Catalan)

It may be just over 100 pages long, but Eva Baltasar’s Boulder contains “ the sensations and experiences of a dozen more ordinary novels”, according to the Booker judges. It tells the story of a female cook nicknamed Boulder who works on a merchant ship and loves the freedom that her job offers. When she falls in love with another woman who wants to settle down and have a child, Boulder has to decide whether freedom or love is more important to her.

Whale by Cheon Myeong-kwan (South Korea; originally written in Korean)

Described by the judges as “a riot of a book” and said to have parallels to Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Whale links together a series of stories about various people (and ghosts) in a remote village in South Korea – including someone who controls honeybees with a whistle. It was first published in South Korea in 2003, but has only recently been translated into English.


The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé (France, born in Guadeloupe; translated from French)

“Maryse Condé is one of the greatest Francophone authors and the great voice of the Caribbean,” according to the International Booker judges. At the age of 89, she’s also the oldest writer ever to be longlisted for the prize. Mixing Caribbean myths with Bible stories, this book follows a beautiful young boy who finds himself the subject of rumours that he is the son of God. As the boy grows up, he sets off in search of his origins.

Standing Heavy by GauZ’ (Côte d’Ivoire; translated from French)

Three people from two different generations arrive in France from Côte d’Ivoire. Working as undocumented workers doing security shifts at a flour mill, their stories expose the legacies of French colonial history, from the optimism of the 1960s to the realities 60 years later. The plot bears similarities to the life of the book’s author, GauZ’ (real name Patrick Armand-Gbaka Brede), who moved to Paris from Côte d’Ivoire in 1999.

Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel (Mexico; translated from Spanish)

Two career-driven women battle with the decision of whether to have children. One decides to, but faces complications during pregnancy. The other decides to get sterilized, but then finds herself becoming a mother figure to her neighbour’s son. “The novel poses some of the knottiest questions about freedom, disability and dependence – all in language so blunt it burns,” the Booker judges say.


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Other books that were on the International Booker Prize 2023 longlist

Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv by Andrey Kurkov (Ukraine; translated from Russian)

Andrey Kurkov has previously written books about a penguin who crosses paths with the mafia. This time round, he’s brought together an unusual collection of folk (including the ex-Soviet security officer and ageing hippy mentioned earlier) in a Lviv cemetery for a novel that combines black humour and magic realism to provide a loving portrait of a Ukrainian city.

While We Were Dreaming by Clemens Meyer (Germany; translated from German)

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 changes everything for four teenagers in the East German city of Leipzig. A cocktail of optimistic dreams, partying, drugs and crime ensue, in a novel that tells what the Booker judges describe as “the story of German unification as it did not appear on your TV screen”.

Pyre by Perumal Murugan (India; translated from Tamil)

This is the first book originally written in Tamil to make the International Booker longlist. It follows a young couple from different castes who risk the anger of their local community by deciding to marry. Set in southern India, the Times Literary Supplement applauded the book for its use of Indian vernacular and for “deftly capturing the rhythms of domestic rural life”.

The chair of the judging panel for the International Booker Prize 2023, Leïla Slimani.
The chair of the judging panel for the International Booker Prize 2023, Leïla Slimani. Image: The Booker Prize.

A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding by Amanda Svensson (Sweden; translated from Swedish)

A set of triplets is born in Sweden in 1989. They all become very different people, and adulthood consequently takes them all to very different corners of the world, but a call from their mother pulls them back together. It turns out one of them may have been switched in the hospital after their birth and that each one of the triplets thinks it was them.

Ninth Building by Zou Jingzhi (China; translated from Chinese)

Drawing on the author’s experiences growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, Ninth Building is a series of connected stories about the people living in a single apartment building. As well as writing novels, Zou Jingzhi has penned film scripts for acclaimed directors such as Wong Kar Wai.


Is Mother Dead by Vigdis Hjorth (Norway; translated from Norwegian)

A recently widowed artist returns home to Oslo to prepare a retrospective of her work, much of which focuses on the subject of motherhood. But having not seen her own family for decades, her arrival back in the city where her mother lives leads to the artist opening up more than just her career history. The novel was praised by the New York Times for portraying the “psychological warfare of familial conflict”.

The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier (France; translated from French)

This is a thriller with a very non-traditional thriller plot – a farmer in a French hamlet is trying to organize a party for his wife’s 40th birthday. Set over the course of one day, things start to go wrong when menacing letters arrive and strangers begin lurking around the nearby houses. “Imagine a Stephen King thriller hijacked by Proust,” one reviewer says.

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