The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist was announced this morning, and is pretty spectacular. As you’ll find out on Tuesday, four of the books on the IFFP longlist are also on the BTBA longlist. (Which may seem small, but a number of these—The Detour, The Sound of Things Falling—have yet to be published/distributed in America, and thus aren’t yet BTBA eligible.)
Anyway, here’s a chunk of Boyd Tonkin’s great write-up on this year’s list:
Every year, the balance of the books that reach this antepenultimate round shifts. This time, central and eastern Europe shines: Pawel Huelle’s wryly delightful Polish stories; Ismail Kadare’s commanding Albanian history-cum-fable; Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s black-comic dystopia from rural Hungary; Dasa Drndic’s tragic family drama in north-eastern Italy, and the camps further east, under German rule.
We also showcase two different faces of Africa: the no-man’s-land between South Africa and Mozambique depicted in Chris Barnard’s ideas-rich adventure; and the remembered Congo that haunts the jesting barflies in Alain Mabanckou’s Paris. A trio of major contenders from past years re-appear: Turkey’s Orhan Pamuk, Italy’s Diego Marani, and Colombia’s Juan Gabriel Vásquez. We visit the Assads’ tyrannous Syria, (Khaled Khalifa), investigate a Danish killing (Pia Juul), and learn dark Norwegian family secrets (Karl Ove Knausgaard).
Our long-listed authors also travel far and wide. Andrés Neuman, Argentinian-born, creates a Romantic-era town in Germany; Dutch Gerbrand Bakker despatches a heroine to rural Wales; in France, Laurent Binet re-imagines Nazi Prague; Enrique Vila-Matas sends a Barcelona publisher to literary Dublin. The Republic of Letters has no border controls. So join this mind-expanding tour – and bon voyage.
This year’s judging panel is as impressive as ever. Joining Boyd in this nearly impossible task is Frank Wynne, Elif Shafak, Gabriel Josipovici, and Jean Boase-Beier. Good luck—it’s going to be tough to pick a winner from this list.
To get on with it, here’s the complete 15-title longlist:
Gerbrand Bakker: The Detour (translated by David Colmer from the Dutch), and published by Harvill Secker
Chris Barnard: Bundu (Michiel Heyns; Afrikaans), Alma Books
Laurent Binet: HHhH (Sam Taylor; French), Harvill Secker
Dasa Drndic: Trieste (Ellen Elias-Bursac; Croatian), MacLehose Press
Pawel Huelle: Cold Sea Stories (Antonia Lloyd-Jones; Polish), Comma Press
Pia Juul: The Murder of Halland (Martin Aitken; Danish), Peirene Press
Ismail Kadare: The Fall of the Stone City (John Hodgson; Albanian), Canongate
Khaled Khalifa: In Praise of Hatred (Leri Price; Arabic), Doubleday
Karl Ove Knausgaard: A Death in the Family (Don Bartlett; Norwegian), Harvill Secker
Laszlo Krasznahorkai: Satantango (George Szirtes; Hungarian), Tuskar Rock
Alain Mabanckou: Black Bazaar (Sarah Ardizzone; French), Serpent’s Tail
Diego Marani: The Last of the Vostyachs (Judith Landry; Italian), Dedalus
Andrés Neuman: Traveller of the Century (Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia; Spanish), Pushkin Press
Orhan Pamuk: Silent House (Robert Finn; Turkish), Faber
Juan Gabriel Vásquez: The Sound of Things Falling (Anne McLean; Spanish), Bloomsbury
Enrique Vila-Matas: Dublinesque (Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean; Spanish), Harvill Secker
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .
Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .
“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .