Sunday, April 14, 2013

Independent Foreign Fiction ~ Shortlist 2013


On Thursday the 11th April the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2013 was announced, revealing the six books chosen by the official judges from the original list of sixteen titles. The Judges were, Jean Boase-Beier, Gabriel Josipovici, Elif Shafak, Boyd Tonkin, and Frank Wynne. This is a wonderful prize because it honours the best work of fiction by a living author, which has been translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom. Uniquely, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize gives the winning author and translator equal status: each receives £5,000. As Elif Shafak said of the IFFP…

In a world where a deeper cross-cultural understanding is a rarity and literature in translation is still not generating the interest it deserves, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize swims against the tide. Right from the beginning it was a beautiful challenge to be on the judging panel. Our shortlist reflects a mesmerizing diversity of styles, genres and languages around the globe. What is common in all is the mellifluousness of the writing and the translation together, a boundless imagination, an eloquent prose and the ability to reach out to people across boundaries-be it national, religious, class or sexual.
The six books then go through the mill once more before one rises to the top and this becomes the official IFFP 2013 winner. The six books now about to start this part of the journey are:
Official Shortlist for the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
bunduBundu by Chris Barnard, Trans Michiel Heyns (Alma Books)
9781846556395The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, Trans David Colmer (Harvill Secker)
dublinesqueDublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas, Trans by Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean (Harvill Secker)
The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare, Trans John Hodgson (

Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman, Trans Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia (Pushkin Press)
triesteTrieste by Daša Drndić, Trans Ellen Elias-Bursac (MacLehose Press)
My involvement in this is due to Stu, who through the mystical power of the blogosphere gathered  a group of vaguely like-minded individuals to form the Shadow Jury,* this small group of book obsessives then set about to read the complete longlist with the aim of producing our own shortlist, along with the aforementioned Stu from Winston’s Dad, the group consists of Lisa from Anz LitLovers LitBlog, Tony from Tony’s Reading List, Mark from Eleutherophobia, and myself from The Parrish Lantern. Here’s our list……
Shadow Jury* Shortlist for the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
santantangoSatantango by László Krasznahorkai, Trans George Szirtes (Tuskar Rock)
9781846556395The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, Trans David Colmer (Harvill Secker)

dublinesqueDublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas, Trans by Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean (Harvill Secker)
The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare, Trans John Hodgson (Canongate)

Traveller of the Century by Andres Neuman, Trans Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia (Pushkin Press)
last-vostyachs-diego-marani-paperback-cover-artThe Last of the Vostyachs by Diego Marani, Trans Judith Landry (Dedalus Books)
Well statistically we appear to agree, as the official Jury and ours come together on four out of the six books and, to be honest, any of the books on either list are worth a read. Where we differ, and to me this a major difference, is in the omission of Satantango, which I thought such a great book (so much that on finishing it I bought another by this writer) that it must be a certainty, in fact I had that and Traveller of the Century as definites, although to be fair not all of us agreed. Another major difference was the inclusion of Bundu, although there is nothing wrong with this book, as I said in my postiffp13:
“ that it was a good old fashion tale of love and adventure. There is nothing wrong with it being that, except this is on The Independent Foreign Fiction prize longlist, meaning it needs to have something else to compete on a level playing field with the other contenders: it must have more depth, gravitas etc. Bundu does, although on one level it is a tale of love and adventure, and yet it is also a study of the characters, a motley gathering of the washed up and lonely, all of whom are seeking some resolution, some answers.”
This I still believe. I just believe that Satantango is the better book, it may be that it is more my kind of read - I don’t really know - all that I do know is that since reading it I have read several books including Bundu and it is László Krasznahorkai’s, book that has stayed with me, still haunts me - still has me trying to comprehend what this paradoxically simple tale is all about. As I stated before this is my opinion and not necessarily that of all in our little coterie. The other difference between theirs and ours, is ours has  The Last of the Vostyachs, a fantastic book that has had said of it that it would make a wonderful film, which it truly would.
* The Shadow Jury, were formed last year by Stu, from Winston’s Dad, and are occasionally seen wandering the hinterland of the blogosphere, where they are fugitives from their daily lives. If you can find them and have the right bartering aids ( Mine's a single malt Whisky) you too can hire them.


Brian Joseph said...

Great post, and a great looking list of books.

I could never be a judge for something like this. Though I do like some books better then others when I really like a group of things I find it difficult to rank them in the order that I like them and have a huge difficulty with the concept of "favorite".

Harvee@BookDilettante said...

I do wish I could read more foreign fiction. And there are so many good books!

Bellezza said...

I ordered The Detour last night, as for some reason it seemed most compelling to me, but now knowing that you prefer Satantango I will have to order that as well.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Brian, thanks for the comment as to judging it's strange as although we're judging partially on translation, most of us do not speak the books mother tongue we are purely basing our opinion on how it comes across in ours, for example some old Japanese lit when translated had a lot of Americanisms which sounded harsh. At the end of the day it is only an opinion & the order is degrees of like within a numerical framework.

Hello Harvee,just grab one of these next time you see it, or check out one of the blogs mentioned here for something that appeals.

Ciao Bellezza, Will warn you it's a divider you'll either love or loathe it. The nearest book I can think of to compare it is 2666 but its tale is nothing like that or its style just there's a certain something that made me think of it.
PS.The Detour is my next read, will be interested in what you think of it.

stujallen said...

not a bad list barring the one we didn't et but that said bundu is a wonderful work of translation in its self ,all the best stu

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Stu, yes I enjoyed Bundu & you're probably right about its translation.

Tom Cunliffe said...

I should have known about this already - thanks for bringing it to your reader's attention

Bellezza said...

Loved loved loved The Detour. It took me seven days to read less than 300 pages because I wanted to absorb each one. Several readers I respect, including my own mother, did not like it. But I was moved by the characters and entranced by the revelation of the plot layer by layer.