After her grandfather was assassinated by Basque separatists in 1977, Ybarra’s family never talked about it. Using fiction to fill in the gaps, debut novel The Dinner Guest is up for the Man Booker International prize

When the Spanish writer Gabriela Ybarra heard she had been nominated for the Man Booker International prize, she could hardly believe it. “I had just fed the baby and was going to take a nap,” she says, her four-month-old son gurgling and squawking on her knee, as she speaks at her home in Madrid. “I was super-relaxed. Then I read the email from my UK editor and I couldn’t sleep, because I was so excited.”

The novel that has put this debut author alongside literary stars such as Laurent Binet, Han Kang and László Krasznahorkai is The Dinner Guest, a bold examination of silence and mortality that explores her grandfather’s murder at the hands of Basque separatists in 1977, and her mother’s death from cancer in 2011. The novel was born from Ybarra’s frustration with her mother’s obituaries, and her own struggle to capture the woman she loved in prose.

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