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Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014: The Longlist

Next Tuesday we’ll be announcing the 25-title Best Translated Book Award longlist, which makes today’s announcement of the IFFP longlist even that more intriguing . . . Although there are different eligibility rules between the two prizes—and different books published in the UK vs. the U.S.—there often is a bit of overlap between the BTBA and IFFP.

First off, here’s the list of the fifteen titles on the longlist along with some info from Boyd Tonkin’s accompanying article:

  • Sinan Antoon, The Corpse Washer (Arabic; translated by the author) Yale University Press
  • Hassan Blasim, The Iraqi Christ (Arabic; trans. Jonathan Wright) Comma Press
  • Julia Franck, Back to Back (German; trans. Anthea Bell) Harvill Secker
  • Sayed Kashua, Exposure (Hebrew; trans. Mitch Ginsberg) Chatto & Windus
  • Hiromi Kawakami, Strange Weather in Tokyo (Japanese; trans. Allison Markin Powell) Portobello Books
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard, A Man in Love (Norwegian; trans. Don Bartlett) Harvill Secker
  • Andrej Longo, Ten (Italian; trans. Howard Curtis) Harvill Secker
  • Ma Jian, The Dark Road (Chinese; trans. Flora Drew) Chatto & Windus
  • Andreï Makine, Brief Loves that Live Forever (French; trans. Geoffrey Strachan) MacLehose Press
  • Javier Marías, The Infatuations (Spanish; trans. Margaret Jull Costa) Hamish Hamilton
  • Hubert Mingarelli, A Meal in Winter (French; trans. Sam Taylor) Portobello Books
  • Yoko Ogawa, Revenge (Japanese; trans. Stephen Snyder) Harvill Secker
  • Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir, Butterflies in November (Icelandic; trans. Brian FitzGibbon) Pushkin Press
  • Jón Kalman Stefánsson, The Sorrow of Angels (Icelandic; trans. Philip Roughton) MacLehose Press
  • Birgit Vanderbeke, The Mussel Feast (German; trans. Jamie Bulloch) Peirene Press

This year, the judges for the £10,000 award – divided equally between author and translator, and supported once more by Arts Council England, Booktrust and Champagne Taittinger – had a higher-than-ever mountain to climb: 126 books, a record entry, translated from 30 different languages. Joining me on the ascent are author, broadcaster and Independent columnist Natalie Haynes, ‘Best of Young British’ novelist Nadifa Mohamed, award-winning translator Shaun Whiteside, and artist, writer and academic Alev Adil.

Our long-list of 15 reveals a fictional eco-system of staggering diversity. Three accomplished sets of linked short stories make the cut, by Hassan Blasim (Iraq), Andrej Longo (Italy) and Yoko Ogawa (Italy). Hunting for a thinking person’s murder mystery? Try Javier Marias (Spain). The latest instalment of a volcanic semi-autobiography? Go to Karl Ove Knausgaard (Norway).

A Dickensian blockbuster that follows one fugitive family? Ma Jian (China). A thriller about imposture and paranoia rooted in the unease of minority culture? Sayed Kashua (Israel). From Germany, Birgit Vanderbeke and Julia Franck explore the burden of history; from Japan, Hiromi Kawakami crafts an eerie inter-generational romance; from Iraq, Sinan Antoon looks into the abyss left by tyranny and invasion. French writers Hubert Mingarelli and Andrei Makine find new ways – oblique, lyrical, humane – to address the Nazi and Soviet past.

The shortlist of six titles will be announced on April 8th at the London Book Fair, and I’m going to make the prediction that the Knausgaard, Ma Jian, Sinan Antoon, Javier Marias, Yoko Ogawa, and Andreï Makine will make it. That prediction is sure to be wrong and is based on nothing but gut feelings. Which is pretty much how I fill out my NCAA brackets as well.

I’ll post more about the BTBA longlist this afternoon, but in the meantime, I’m going to make a second prediction: From the IFFP longlist, four titles will make the BTBA list (Antoon, Knausgaard, Ogawa, Jian).

Regardless, this is a great list highlighting what a great year it has been for international literature.



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