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Hwang Sok-yong's 'Mater 2-10' misses out on International Booker Prize

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : May 22, 2024 - 13:58

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From left, South Korean author Hwang Sok-yong, translators Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae pose on the red carpet upon arrival for the 2024 International Booker Prize ceremony, at Tate Modern in central London, on Tuesday. (Yonhap) From left, South Korean author Hwang Sok-yong, translators Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae pose on the red carpet upon arrival for the 2024 International Booker Prize ceremony, at Tate Modern in central London, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

South Korean literary giant Hwang Sok-yong's missed out on the 2024 Booker International Prize after making the shortlist with "Mater 2-10."

The prestigious literary award ceremony took place at the Tate Modern in London on Tuesday, where the jury announced German author Jenny Erpenbeck's "Kairos," translated by Michael Hofmann, as this year's winner. Erpenbeck's winning title tells the story of a tangled love affair during the final years of East Germany.

Hwang's "Mater 2-10," translated by Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae, was among the six shortlisted books vying for the coveted literary accolade.

Centered on three generations of a family of rail workers and a laid-off factory worker staging a high-altitude sit-in, “Mater 2-10” (titled “Three Generations of Railworkers” in Korean) depicts the lives of ordinary working-class Koreans. The narrative unfolds from the Japanese colonial era, through liberation and into the 21st century, spanning over a century.

This was the second time Hwang had been nominated for the award. In 2019, his work “At Dusk,” also translated by Kim-Russell, secured a spot on the longlist.

Korean literature celebrated its third consecutive year with a work on the Booker Prize International shortlist, following Bora Chung’s “Cursed Bunny,” translated by Anton Hur, in 2022; and Cheon Myeong-kwan’s “Whale,” translated by Chi-Young Kim.

This was also the seventh time that a South Korean novel has been nominated for the esteemed award that was established in 2005. Park Sang-young’s “Love in the Big City,” also translated by Hur, was longlisted in 2022. Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian,” translated by Deborah Smith, won the prize in 2016, while Han’s “The White Book,” also translated by Smith, was shortlisted in 2018.

The International Booker Prize is awarded annually, running alongside the Booker Prize for English-language fiction, which will be presented in the fall.