When Shokoofeh Azar was a teenager in Tehran she often dreamed about winning the Booker Prize. When the winning books were translated into Farsi, she would devour them. “I followed all of the Booker Prize winners,” she says, “and always wanted to win the Booker one day.”
Now she has the chance to win a Booker prize – the International Booker – after her magic realist novel, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, was named on the longlist for the £50,000 ($98,000) prize, which is shared between the author and translator of the winning book. The annual prize is given to a single novel or short-story collection translated into English and published in Britain or Ireland.
“It is very important for Iranians because it’s the first time an Iranian goes for this prize,” Azar says. “Lots of Iranian people who work in literature or are book readers are really excited about that.”
Azar worked as a journalist in Iran, covering social affairs. But she was arrested several times and endured spells in jail, including three months in isolation. Her family told her she had to flee the country.